Blasphemy or rights abuse?: President directs interior ministry to submit detailed report

Published: August 20, 2012

President takes notice of 11-year-old mentally challenged Christian girl jailed for allegedly burning parts of Noorani Qaida. PHOTO: REUTERS/ FILE

ISLAMBAD: Taking notice of the arrest of an 11-year-old Christian girl on blasphemy charges, President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday sought a detailed report of the incident from interior ministry.

Rifta Masih – who suffers from Down’s Syndrome – was jailed by the police in Mehrabadi village, near Islamabad, on Saturday after being severely beaten up by locals, for allegedly burning 10 pages of the Noorani Qaida.

After the issue was highlighted in the media, Islamabad police registered a case against the imam of the local mosque of Meharabad area near G-11 sector for instigating locals to set the minor girl on fire.

“Investigation is underway and the authenticity of the incident, age of the girl and her motive is yet to be determined,” said the station house officer (SHO) of the Qasim Niazi police station.

Instead of trying to contain the situation and allay tensions in the area through deployment of police, the SHO simply asked the Christian community of the area to run for their lives. The official revealed that a new FIR has been registered against the cleric and 175 others who he claimed have approached the police with a demand to hand over the Christian girl so she could be set on fire publically at the main chowk of the area.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti told The Express Tribune that Rifta would be medically examined. Bhatti said that he has also taken up the issue with religious scholars of different sects, who, after Eidul Fitr, will determine whether Rifta’s act was deliberate or unintentional, since she is only a child.

A cleric, who talked on phone on the condition of anonymity, gave The Express Tribune his version of the incident. According to him, he was teaching Quran to students in the mosque when he heard noises of neighbours beating someone. When he approached the scene, he was told that the girl, who he himself admitted was a minor, had taken away a copy of the Holy Book from a neighbour’s house and set it on fire.

The cleric vowed to defend “Islam in this world and next world” and claimed that after witnessing the incident he, along with some other locals, approached the police for registration of a case against the girl.

He said when the police remained reluctant to register the case; locals were forced to stage a protest. While the cleric claimed that it was him who approached the police for legal action, the police said that they saved the girl and her family through a timely intervention or the mob led by this cleric would have burnt the girl alive.

SHO Niazi said that if a timely operation was not conducted, locals could have burnt the Christians of the area. Others said that instead of denying the accusations, the Christian population fled from the area. Abdur Rehman, 24, who also lives in the area, said that he wanted to kill the girl but police escorted her along with the family.

Reactions

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Human Rights Cell has expressed concern over the detention of the juvenile Christian girl. The Human Rights Cell proposed that in any such event, law must allow leadership of religious communities and district administration to jointly enquire the matter before the registration of a complaint and arrest.

According to the Centre for Law and Justice, at least 200 to 300 Christian families from Meharabadi Jaffar, Sector G-12, Islamabad, have fled after Rifta was accused of blasphemy.

The organisation said that the government has failed to provide security to these Christian families who fled from their houses after clerics pledged to attack Christians and evict them forcibly.

Reader Comments (26)

  • Follow the Sunnah
    Aug 20, 2012 - 1:14PM

    Don’t declare juveniles “blasphemous” for burning noorani qaedas.Recommend

  • Aug 20, 2012 - 2:07PM

    As for as unrest in the area in concerned,
    the SHO of the relevant police station is responsible
    for that,why he registered a case against Imam masjid
    and other local notables.and tried to arrest them.
    He should properly deal with this sensitive matter.Recommend

  • Aug 20, 2012 - 2:13PM

    Reliable,independent sources reveals,
    she is a 11 years old mentally impaired christian girl,
    if that is true,she deserve sympathy and mercy..

    Recommend

  • Aug 20, 2012 - 2:19PM

    It is a case of further investigation.

    Recommend

  • Heather
    Aug 20, 2012 - 2:22PM

    Is Islam so fragile that it is afraid of the opinions of poor women like Asia Bibby and of little girls?

    Recommend

  • Aug 20, 2012 - 2:26PM

    Matter is very sensitive needs careful fair investigation
    such matters fueled law and order situation,ignited religious
    passion and resulting in sever unrest.

    Recommend

  • Naeem Malik(Dublin)
    Aug 20, 2012 - 2:28PM

    Intolerant and insane socitey can only do thisRecommend

  • Warlock
    Aug 20, 2012 - 2:34PM

    This is jahalat of the highest order! Not only is she only a child, but she has Downs Syndrome too! In NO court, religion, or order can(should) she be convicted! She cannot be held accountable for her actions! Outrageous!

    Recommend

  • Aug 20, 2012 - 2:42PM

    Very hard to understand the honor of religion in such age
    and as reveals she is mentally disabled and impaired too
    has been done not deliberately according to my opinion.

    Recommend

  • Parvez
    Aug 20, 2012 - 2:55PM

    All the right noises are being made by the ruling government except the necessary noise for amending this much misused law. How long are we going to to held hostage by the religious extremists ??

    Recommend

  • wilson black
    Aug 20, 2012 - 3:15PM

    The only way these people and future generation of pakistani radicals can be thought a lesson is by severely punishing tjis mob.Recommend

  • Dr Nikolaas De Wee
    Aug 20, 2012 - 3:16PM

    I am an activist Human & Equality Rights nationally and internationally. Former dilinquent criminologist in Child & Youth Care and a specialist in this field with exposure of 23 years and as such would like to voice my disapproval accordingly if a child being a minor and also disabled suffering of an illness as indicated in the report, cannot be punishable for her actions.Recommend

  • Salman
    Aug 20, 2012 - 5:31PM

    Punjab always have problem when it comes blasphemy. Gojra riots against Christians occured there, Ahmedis are attacked there always, LeJ, Sipa e Sahaba originated from Punjab ..even Kamra attackers looked Punjabis …there is some thing really wrong with the conservative Punjabi society when it comes religion. The other provinces may have communal and political terrorism but in Punjab its religious terrorism and extreme intolerance.

    Recommend

  • Marxist
    Aug 20, 2012 - 6:17PM

    Do at least one thing right, Mr. President. Annul the blasphemy law, along with all other Shariah laws in the Constitution.

    Recommend

  • rough streets
    Aug 20, 2012 - 6:37PM

    Pakistan has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.

    Recommend

  • Aug 20, 2012 - 9:50PM

    This child needs to be treated with love and compassion because of her disability. Something is very wrong with the people. Could be that they are so consumed with hate for other religions that they go crazy when a situation arises.

    Recommend

  • Shahrukh Rao
    Aug 21, 2012 - 12:55AM

    Few suggestions to tackle blasphemy Incidents:

    1) Investigation of the case should be impartial – no internal or foreign pressures should affect it.

    2) Mob mentality should be discouraged and the accused person be provided fool proof security.

    3) Message of compassion and love of Islam be promoted instead of distorted hate speech against minorities which make them more vulnerable in such situations.

    4) Ulema should come forward in this regard and sanity be prevailed.

    5) We should accept that Islam is not vulnerable to the opinions of minorities and it don’t need us to defend its honor.Due process of law should take place.

    6) Blasphemy should be clearly defined,common people,Is burning of noorani qaeda blasphemy? Really?

    7) There should not be any hue and cry if the blasphemy law is reviewed and check whether its consistent with shariah in the first place or not?

    8) Pakistani people should be told by ulema via media & masjids that its the very same Islam which states killing of one innocent equivalent to killing of whole mankind.

    Recommend

  • Mj
    Aug 21, 2012 - 3:30AM

    According to extremists (and there are many), Islam is under threat from an 11 year old. What a sad state of affairs.

    Recommend

  • Asok
    Aug 21, 2012 - 4:28AM

    The Blasphemy law has been misused in every single case. Sure, the sympathies are much bigger in the case of a 11 year old Down’s Syndrome girl, and blame is put on the mob.

    But the real blame lies with the law itself. It has no justification and should be repealed. God and holy books do not need the protection of human made laws.

    Recommend

  • Kashif Akhtar
    Aug 21, 2012 - 6:15AM

    For once police did some thing right by registering a case against this jahil Imam and the mob who beat the child up and tried to kill her and burn her Alive. Seriously… That’s the justice they thought for the child? People who instigate hatred in the community should be locked away and and never be released to save innocent lives.

    One simply can’t take the law into their own hands!

    Recommend

  • Dr Imran
    Aug 21, 2012 - 8:11AM

    The Quiada was thrown in the garbage.
    The girl cannot read Arabic so there is no crime here.
    The arresting officer needs to be put in jail
    The people who complaint against a child are forgetting that criminals are killing and looting everyday and no one of these brave muslims ever complaint about those criminals.

    Recommend

  • Phelomena
    Aug 21, 2012 - 10:54AM

    @wilson black:
    our government is sleeping even our christians leaders r sleepng…it became so many days but no action

    Recommend

  • S K Afridi
    Aug 21, 2012 - 12:07PM

    @Heather:
    Islam is not fragile but no one has a right to be intentionally disrespectful to the prophets of Allah Taala and the holy books like Quraan, Torah and Bible. Unintentional acts even blasphemous should be condoned if the person concerned expresses genuine repentance. As far as the current case is concerned, if the girl is under age and also mentally impaired then she must immediately be released.

    Recommend

  • Amir
    Aug 21, 2012 - 3:16PM

    It is now time to arrest people who bring these cases to police, torture them and burn them in public if found false.
    Automatically the cases of blasphomny will subside.
    Right now no one is challenging the accusers who have divine protection.
    Cleric inciting hatred and mahem should be tried and hanged. This is the only way we will see cases in these cases drop.

    Recommend

  • Dr Nikolaas De Wee
    Aug 22, 2012 - 11:17PM

    As former dilinquent crimnologist an expert in this field however one don’t need any doctorate thesis to see that this case of this child is absolutely inappropriate and should without any further delay returned to her parents and proceedings must be started against both the complainant and the arresting officer for not properly screened the child…

    My sincere gratitude to the president for the swift action with regard to this matter and it will be appreciated whether the matter can be expedited as a matter of dire urgency.Recommend

  • Sheila McKillop
    Aug 26, 2012 - 8:35PM

    Regardless of whether this girl is a person with intellectual disability, a minor, a christian, a female…. any such harsh treatment for any such infraction is brutal, and is cruel and unusual punishment and should not be sanctioned.

    Recommend

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