Despite the host of new problems that it has created, the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty has had one positive effect; it has forced the courts to confront cases of individuals who have been languishing on death row for years on end. Perhaps it is the crushing finality of the punishment, or the renewed efforts of human rights and legal aid organisations, but the higher courts seem to be diligently hearing backlogged appeals and entertaining review petitions. The latest and most prominent case is the conviction of Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges.

In a story that has now become depressingly familiar, Asia Bibi, a Christian, was publically stripped, shamed and ostracised from her village at the hands of a mosque cleric and the mob he had instigated. That not being enough, the trial – heavily influenced by religious zeal – convicted her in the absence of proper evidential requirements. The acceptance of her appeal application by the Supreme Court is a positive step as the case can finally be examined by judges better acquainted with legal rules and far less susceptible to religious pressure (relative to the lower judiciary at least). While this does not guarantee a favourable result, after all her tribulations an unbiased judiciary is the least that we can offer her.

Yet, there is more to this than the fate of the appeal itself. Asia Bibi’s case has become a symbol of the draconian law, perfectly showcasing the kind of prejudiced, opportunistic behaviour that is promoted by it. The fact that she is a woman makes it all the more iconic. To an extent, the future of this case reflects the judicial perception of the law. Whereas the law seemed like a monolithic entity before, the acceptance of this appeal petition may be the chink in the armour that human rights activists where looking for. After the murder of Salman Taseer, the hero worship of Mumtaz Qadri, and the savagery of the Kot Radha Krishan lynching, this news is the only positive development on the blasphemy front. This may not change the verdict, and even if it does there is a long way to go before this law can be reformed, but one can cautiously hope that in debate over the blasphemy law the apex court has chosen the right side – the just side.