Blasphemy case - Muslim cleric arrested for framing Christian girl in Pakistan

Blasphemy case - Muslim cleric arrested for framing Christian girl in Pakistan

Islamabad : Pakistan | Sep 03, 2012 at 8:34 AM PDT
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Muslim cleric arrested for framing girl in Pakistan blasphemy case

Report By: Nina Rai

Islamabad, 03 Sept., 2012

A Muslim cleric in Pakistan has been arrested on suspicion of framing a minor Pakistani Christian girl with 'Down’s Syndrome' charged with 'blasphemy' for burning pages of Islamic holy book, Koran.

Rimsha Masih, 14 has been imprisoned since earlier this month under Pakistan's stringent anti-blasphemy law, after she was accused by her Muslim neighbors of burning pages of Muslim sacred texts. Under Pak law, anyone found guilty of even speaking unfavorably about Islam and the Prophet Mohammad face the death penalty.

According to the police, when the girl was brought to the police station she was frightened and not able to speak normally. They said they were not aware whether she was indeed suffering from any mental issues.

Meanwhile, the controversial Pakistan blasphemy case took a new turn, with a Muslim cleric Mohammad Khalid Chisti, 30 being arrested by a contingent of police officials and presented in court on Sunday morning (02 Sept, 2012).

The Muslim minister, who leads a mosque in the poverty-stricken Mehr Jaffer neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad, was taken into police custody for 14 days, for his alleged role in setting up the mentally disabled Christian minor.

A bail hearing will be held on Monday for Masih, whose case has once again turned the world's attention on Pakistan's controversial anti-blasphemy laws, which critics opine is routinely used to exploit and coerce minorities.

Outraged social activists, religious and secular groups all over the world have been protesting against the detention of the disabled girl. But now with the arrest of Khalid Chisti, on suspicion of planting evidence to frame her, Masih may have moved one step closer to release.

According to Munir Hussain Jafri a Pakistani police official, Khalid Chisti was arrested after one of his colleagues from the village accused Chisti of falsifying evidence of charred holy texts. Jafri told Reuters: ‘Witnesses complained that he had torn pages from a Koran and placed them in her bag which had burned papers.’

The colleague of Chisti, Hafiz Mohammad Zubair is a muezzin (prayer caller) at the mosque. He told the local magistrate that Khalid Chisti had added two pages of the Koran to a heap of burned pages of the Noorani Qaida, which was confiscated from Rimsha Masih.

Zubair was quoted by police officials as stating: "I tried to stop him, but he said that this would strengthen our case." Apparently, such accusations against the cleric Chisti are not new, with some neighbors of his even accusing him of being a rabble-rouser and instigating locals.

What is, however, baffling is why Zubair came forward so boldly to give the testimony against Chisti. This kind of testimony given before a court is rare in cases of people accused of blasphemy.

Most of the details in such cases are either murky or disputed, as Pakistanis are generally afraid of being the recipient of the wrath of religious heads and leaders, who often use their position to whip up public hysteria, resulting in violent protests and riots.

What is really a cause for alarm in the Rimsha Masih case is that even if the charges against the disabled Christian girl are dropped, some neighbors are of the opinion that she will never be safe even in future.

There have been cases in Pakistan where even a whiff of a rumor about blasphemous acts has resulted in lynching or other forms of violence by fanatics, especially against minorities.

Few days ago, a team of prominent Islamic clerics called upon the police to investigate the charges against Masih.They demanded the prosecution against the Christian girl’s accusers if the charges are proved to be false.

In fact just last week Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari stated that he had taken note of the reports of the arrest and asked Pakistan's interior ministry to send him a report on the same.

Meanwhile on Sunday, a blindfolded Chisti was brought before a local magistrate with his hands tied and surrounded by contingent of police officers and commandos. "I have done nothing wrong," he protested his innocence briefly before the media.

Well, now that the matter is before the courts and the alleged instigator is in police custody, hope justice is meted out expeditiously to the young disabled girl who has been languishing behind bars unjustly since past one month.

Source: Daily Mail/NDTV

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Pakistani authorities have arrested a Muslim cleric for the suspected set up of a young girl, reported to have Down's Syndrome, accused of burning pages of a Koran.
Nina Rai is based in Mangaluru, Karnataka, India, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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