Bibi was only 13 when police arrested her for killing her husband whom she remembers “as a good man”. Her parents and her brother were also arrested and jailed as they all were the last people to be seen with her husband when the couple was visiting her family’s home. But his body was found buried at his own residence some 25 miles away, according to court documents.
Bibi was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 — and then followed a series of errors that left her locked up. A prison superintendent failed to file her appeal to the high court several times and Bibi was left without a state counsel to represent her and was unable to afford a private one.
It was only in 2014 that her appeal was taken up after a lawyer, who headed a local charity, met Bibi on a routine prison visit and fought for her release. In 2017, the Lahore High Court released her over a lack of evidence and apologised, saying she was “left to anguish in the jail solely due to [the] lacklustre attitude of the jail authorities”.
“This court feels helpless in compensating her,” the judge said in his order at the time.
In March, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR), a legal advocacy group working for Bibi, filed a petition to demand the Punjab government pay compensation for the “miscarriage of justice”. They also asked the government to create new legislation to act against wrongful convictions in Pakistan, where there are likely thousands of cases like Bibi’s, according to the FFR.
In a 2019 report, the group highlighted that in 310 capital punishment cases heard by the Supreme Court between 2010 and 2018, nearly two in five prisoners on death row were wrongfully convicted. While Bibi has not asked for any specific amount, she said she hoped the compensation would help her buy a new bed, blankets and linen, a washing machine, an iron and a stove.