The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has dismissed all charges of blasphemy against a minor Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, and declared her innocent of any wrongdoing.
IHC Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman on Tuesday quashed a First Information Report (FIR) against Rimsha and gave a detailed 15-page judgment declaring the girl innocent. “Being Muslims, we should be extraordinarily careful while levelling such allegations against each other and non-Muslim communities too,” he observed.
Hearing the petition filed by Rimsha seeking cancellation of an FIR against her, the chief justice observed that a prudent man in society would never bother to inquire from anyone – specially a minor girl – what she was carrying in a polythene bag or what she intended to do with it. “Therefore it manifests that the complainant had some ulterior motive to manoeuvre the expulsion of the Christian community from the vicinity. Therefore the mala fide on part of the complainant is apparent from the facts and circumstances of the case,” he stated.
Reports surfaced that a cleric in Islamabad’s suburb of Mehrabadi had tampered with the evidence and implicated the minor girl in a blasphemy case to compel dozens of Christian families out of the village.
Rimsha’s lawyer Akmal Bhatti told reporters after the proceedings that the court had quashed the case and declared his client “innocent”.
Rimsha, believed to be no older than 14, was accused of burning pages from a noorani qaida (elementary religious book with verses of the Holy Quran) — a move that led to global condemnation and concerns about the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.
IHC Chief Justice Rehman stated in the verdict that on one hand the complainant in the FIR said that the accused carried a polythene bag containing verses of the Holy Quran but he failed to explain how he had suspected it when the verses were not visible from the bag.
He also observed that there was an inclusion of two pages of the Holy Quran which were not recovered in the beginning when the complainant had handed over the envelope right after the incident.
“The alleged occurrence clearly proves a material contradiction and hiatus in the prosecution story at the initial stage.”
The court observed that no one had seen Rimsha set the verses on fire and in view of the same it cannot be said that she has committed the offence under the blasphemy law.
The court also cited that as per the statement of witness Hafiz Malik Muhammad Zubair, the central figure of the case, Muhammad Khalid Jadoon Chishti, had tampered with the evidence to implicate Rimsha.
“It cannot be said that the accused committed the offence since during the investigation it was known that she was unaware of religious feelings of Islam and Christianity,” the chief justice said.
The court added that Rimsha was juvenile and uneducated and her mental age was below her chronological age — reportedly the Christian girl has the Down Syndrome.
Rimsha was arrested under the blasphemy laws from the outskirts of Islamabad on August 16 after a mob of angry residents gathered at the Ramna Police Station and accused her of burning pages of the Holy Quran. The charges against Rimsha led to the exodus of dozens of Christian families from the neighbourhood after cleric Chishti, the imam of a mosque, allegedly issued a decree on his mosque’s loudspeaker to burn Christians of the Mehrabadi village alive.
Rimsha was detained for three weeks in the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi and was granted bail on September 6. The detention led to global condemnation and concerns by rights organisations.
In Washington, the United States welcomed the dropping of charges against Rimsha Masih. “With regards to dismissal of charges against Rimsha Masih, we are pleased to see those charges dismissed,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY OUR CORRESPONDENT IN WASHINGTON)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2012.