News / Asia

    Christian Pakistani Accused of Blasphemy Out on Bail

    A Pakistani judge has freed on bail a young Christian girl accused of blasphemy.  While lawyers declared the decision a victory for justice, Christians from her village are still too scared to go home.

    Supporters of 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, believed to be mentally impaired, gathered outside the courtroom to wait for the news.
     
    Masih has spent three weeks in jail.  Her release, lawyer Raja Akram Amin said, showed the justice system in Pakistan worked.
     
    “The investigating lawyer is also a Muslim, so he said she is a victim, so you can see the degree of fairness and transparency, we believe in the judicial system, our judicial system is very independent,” Amin said.
     
    Masih was arrested after a mob gathered outside her house here, accusing her of burning pages of the Quran.
     
    Terrified, her family and other Christian families have fled.  Under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, defacing the Quran carries the death penalty.
     
    Religious advocate Sajid Ishaq, a Christian, as well as Muslim clerics, led the call for Masih’s release.  Ishaq says he hopes this interfaith cooperation will continue.
     
    “I think we can prevent such cases in the future,” Ishaq said.
     
    But others are not optimistic.  Scared for their lives, Christians who left their village are hiding in this Islamabad slum.
     
    Masih’s parents have reportedly taken refuge in the German embassy.
     
    Mumtaz Masih, who is not related to Rimsha Masih, ran away with his family.  He does not think young Rimsha is safe.
     
    “She is not safe here.  These people are going to kill her.  They did not spare us, what are they going to do to her?,” Masih said.
     
    He doesn’t feel safe either.
     
    “We are also afraid and we don’t want to go back to our neighborhood,” Masih said.
     
    Those accused of blasphemy have been killed by mobs before.  Christians are only about 5 percent of the population in Pakistan, and tend to be among the poorest.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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    Comment Sorting
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    by: kafantaris from: USA
    September 08, 2012 5:16 PM
    Seeing the pious Pakistanis enforce antiquated blasphemy laws in the 21st century should give us pause.
    Reflecting that the same Pakistanis have threatened to use their country's nuclear bomb on their populous neighbor should interrupt our sleep.
    Why then are we preoccupied only with the prospect of a nuclear Iran?

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 07, 2012 2:15 PM
    Pakistan remains one of the worst human rights violators in the world. Pakistan has laws on papers to impress the outside world but there exists no justice system. Most of Pakistan depend on tribal champions who at best are judges of the jungle-justice system which oversees the execution of the blasphemy law. The principle of separation of powers is a decoration of textbooks to show Pakistan as belonging to the comity of nations, but its laws are best known for their overdose of sedatives - it's comatose or in coma . Thus intelligence exists but cannot see beyond its nose; the military exists but defense is assigned to Taliban, al qaida, haqqani and other tribal champions. And the bail granted is a window dressing: it's going to be like Sadam Hussein's welcome party to his son-in-law who had been judged guilty for opposing Sadam - their god - and if you don't remember, he was picked in unrecognizable pieces the next morning. Pakistan should assure the Christians that this is not going to be the case, any more.

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