Blasphemy charge against girl dropped in Pakistan

A court in Pakistan has dropped a controversial blasphemy charge against a Christian girl accused of burning pages from the Koran, but many others are suffering under the same draconian blasphemy law.

Rimsha Masih, who is 14 but considered to have a lower mental age, was charged after being accused by a neighbour, a Muslim cleric who is now facing allegations that he planted evidence.

Even though the case has been dropped, there are fears that Rimsha and her family — who are now in hiding — will not be safe in Pakistan.

According to human rights activist Tahira Abdullah, “They will never be able to go back to their community. They will never be able to go back to their city. Her immediate family may not ever be able to visit their extended family because someone may be lying in wait for them and I am afraid for her life.”

Meanwhile, there are 16 people now on death row in Pakistan, facing execution because of blasphemy convictions. Another 20 people are serving life sentences.

Since 1990 about 40 people suspected of blasphemy have been killed by vigilantes. Observers say that in most cases the evidence of blasphemy is questionable at best.

“In Pakistan, even being accused of blasphemy is equivalent to being sentenced,” human rights campaigner Xavier P. William told the BBC. “This is the irony that justice comes only under international pressure. The lower courts have completely surrendered to extremists’ pressure because of the state’s inability to protect them.”

In the neighbourhood where Rimsha’s family lived, her Muslim neighbours were reluctant to speak on camera about her case. One man leaving afternoon prayers said the judgement was wrong. Others said they would accept the verdict.

Another Muslim man said: “We saw what happened. We know she’s guilty but the court has let her off.”

One Christian man said that anyone speaking out in Rimsha’s favour would get threats from Muslim neighbours. Another said they were still unable to hold Mass in their local church.




Image: Huffington Post

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