News / Asia

Muslim Cleric Accused of Planting Evidence in Pakistan Blasphemy Case

Police escort blindfolded Muslim cleric Khalid Jadoon as he is brought before a judge at a court in Islamabad, September 2, 2012.
Police escort blindfolded Muslim cleric Khalid Jadoon as he is brought before a judge at a court in Islamabad, September 2, 2012.
Ayaz Gul
ISLAMABAD — Police in Pakistan have arrested a Muslim cleric for allegedly planting evidence against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. The development has raised hopes the girl may be released in a case that has revived calls for reform in the country's controversial anti-blasphemy laws.

The overnight arrest of Khalid Jadoon, a prayer leader at a mosque in Islamabad, followed testimony by one of his aides that the cleric tampered with evidence to strengthen blasphemy charges against the Christian girl.  

The cleric allegedly wanted to expel the minority Christian community from the area. A court has placed Jadoon in police custody for investigation.  

A family rides past the locked house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, on the outskirts of Islamabad, August 23, 2012.A family rides past the locked house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, on the outskirts of Islamabad, August 23, 2012.
x
A family rides past the locked house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, on the outskirts of Islamabad, August 23, 2012.
A family rides past the locked house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, on the outskirts of Islamabad, August 23, 2012.
The Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, is about 14 years old and suffers from Down syndrome. She was arrested two weeks ago in Islamabad after angry neighbors, led by the now-detained prayer leader, accused her of burning pages from the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

Human-rights groups and some leading Muslim clerics in Pakistan have suspected since the beginning she has been framed.

Defense lawyers are hopeful the arrest of the cleric will lead to the girl's release at a bail hearing Monday.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Zohra Yusuf says she hopes the court will take strict action against the cleric to deter misuse of the blasphemy laws. 

“Because what happens in most cases is even when false accusations are leveled against people, no punitive action is taken against those who bring in the charges," she says. "So we hope that in this case the cleric will be charged and tried. And the girl and the family need to be adequately not just compensated, but their security must be ensured."

Fearing revenge from Muslim residents, the blasphemy charges caused hundreds of Christians to leave the neighborhood.

This latest twist in the case also strengthens the widespread perception in Pakistan that extremists have been misusing the blasphemy laws to persecute religious minorities.

Critics and minorities have long demanded reform of the laws, which carry the death penalty for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam.  

Yusuf says the current case offers a good opportunity for the government to introduce reforms. 

“It is a test case for the government and if they lose this opportunity then I think it will be really a setback, because this clearly demonstrated the flaws in the law itself, and it gives the government a chance to make adequate reforms in the law so that innocent people are not targeted and made to suffer," she says.

But critics say fear of an extremist backlash has prevented Pakistani leaders from speaking against flaws in the anti-blasphemy law.

Supreme Court lawyer and a leading child rights activist Anees Gilani says that just reforming the law may not help discourage its misuse. 

“I think basically it is a problem of the mindset," says Gilani. "I think people have become so scared that there is almost no one willing to raise their voices. And this includes the judiciary, this includes the politicians also, including the government. Like even in this case you can see no one is willing to come out and openly support Rimsha. So I think this is the real problem.”

Christians make up four percent of Pakistan’s mostly Muslim population and have long complained about the anti-blasphemy law, saying it offers them no protection.

Convictions are common under the law, but most are thrown out on appeal and the death sentence has never been carried out, although outraged mobs have killed many people accused of blasphemy.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: john from: german
September 03, 2012 11:54 PM
No human rights and safe for Christian in muslim world. Our omnipotent god, pls help and save those people living in muslim world ,pls release them from the hell. AMon.


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 03, 2012 10:50 AM
"The cleric allegedly wanted to expel the minority Christian community from the area". This has always been the case. Extremist rascals always want other peoples of other faith to leave the world for them, what a disagreeable humans they are! And then they are welcomed to other countries, even allowed to study and enhance themselves so that some of them become presidents in their countries.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid