Minority rights: Court seeks clarity on ‘blasphemy’ girl’s report

Report claims Rimsha is between 13 and 14 years; prosecution lawyer rejects findings.


Obaid Abbasi August 31, 2012

ISLAMABAD:


The Islamabad City District Court on Thursday directed the deputy commissioner to clarify the medical report of the 11-year-old girl accused of blasphemy and present a copy to the court on September 1 after the prosecution raised objections over its authenticity.


During the hearing at the District and Sessions Court of Judge Raja Jawad Abbas, the counsel for accused Rimsha, Advocate Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, submitted her medical report and claimed that her age was between 13 and 14.

According to him, the medical board investigating the age and mental state of the girl determined that she was in fact between 13 and 14 years old.

The defence stated that the test was conducted by a panel of eminent doctors of Poly Clinic Hospital.

However, the prosecution lawyer has challenged the medical report, arguing that the medical board was not set up on court orders.

Meanwhile, the judge adjourned the hearing till September 1, when he would try to determine how the report was conducted.

During the proceedings, the counsel for complainant, Rao Abdur Rahim, appeared before the court and said: “This medical test has no authenticity’’.

Rimsha was arrested for allegedly burning pages of a Noorani Qaida, a booklet used to familiarise children with Arabic as written in the Quran. Consequently, the Ramna Police Station registered a case against her.

The girl – who belongs to a Christian community and reportedly has the Down Syndrome condition – has been held in detention since Aug 16 under blasphemy laws.

Rahim said that Rimsha had admitted that she burned a chapter of the Holy Quran. He further alleged that doctors were in favour of the accused and the state was supporting her.

Paul Bhatti warns of Christian discrimination

Blasphemy allegations against Christians in Pakistan are not just a religious issue, according to the country’s top Christian politician — they also show that the old feudal caste system has not gone away.

Paul Bhatti, the only Christian cabinet minister, felt a rush of fear two weeks ago when Rimsha was arrested.

“What is happening is the misuse of this law,” Bhatti told AFP.

Under the legislation, insulting the Holy Prophet (pbuh) can be punished by death, while desecrating the Holy Quran can earn a life sentence.

Bhatti said even if the law were changed, allegations of blasphemy provoke such visceral fury that people would take the law into their own hands.

“This is a very difficult time for Pakistan, there is sectarian violence, there is extremism, there is terrorism,” said Bhatti.

“The people who want to destabilise the country, they can use easy victims. And many times, easy victims are Christians like in this case.”

Solving the problem means promoting tolerance and helping the poor and the marginalised, Bhatti said, but there is a great deal of work to be done.

“You cannot change this problem in one month or two, it takes (a) long time,” he said.

(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2012. 

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