A young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy has to wait until Monday, September 3, to know whether or not she will be given bail, after a judge adjourned her case on Saturday, September 1. The case has focused attention on Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws that can result in prison or even death for insulting Islam. Human rights activists have long criticized the laws that help to persecute non-Muslims and settle personal scores.
On September 2, the arrest of an Imam named Khalid Chishti, in Islamabad, provided a new twist to the blasphemy case involving Rimsha Masih, a minor Christian girl.
The Imam, prayer leader of the Jamia Aminia mosque in the Mehria Jaffar neighborhood of Islamabad, was arrested on Saturday night after a person named Hafiz Muhammad Zubair, recorded a statement against the cleric before a magistrate. Zubair testified that he saw the cleric stuffing pages of the Quran in the bag of the Christian girl and implicated her under the contentious blasphemy law.
Police arrested Chishti based on this statement and produced him before a judicial magistrate, and then remanded in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi for 14 days.
Earlier, Zubair told the media that the incident took place while he and some other men were in ‘aitekaf‘ (seclusion) in the mosque during the holy Islāmic month of Ramzan. He said, “The bag brought to the mosque, had nothing in it. When he (Chishti) was given the bag, he went inside the mosque and pulled out two or three pages and added them to the bag. I told him what he was doing was wrong. He told me that it was evidence against the Christians, and a way to get them removed from the area.”
Zubair said that Malik Hammad, a local, handed the bag with the pages of the Quran over to the police. On August 16, when an angry mob surrounded the police station and demanded that action be taken against the Christian girl the police arrested Rimsha. She is being held at the high-security Adiala Jail, and her judicial remand extended by 14 days last week.Malik Hammad, ourt to take suo motu notice of the incident and take action against those who had really desecrated the Quran. He blamed the Christian girl for the incident.
An official medical board concluded that Rimsha was 14 years of age, and her mental development did not correspond to her age. Last week, Rao Abdul Raheem, the lawyer of Rimsha’s accuser, challenged the findings.
Khalid Chishti in a television interview last week accepted that he had, during a recent sermon, called for the eviction of all Christians from the neighbourhood if they did not stop their prayer services because “Pakistan is an Islāmic country given by Allah.”
The new evidence against the cleric could help defuse the blasphemy case against the Christian girl.
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