A well respected Pakistani Muslim Imam has been arrested, accused of planting the burnt pages of the Koran in the bag of a Christian girl being held on charges of blasphemy.
Rimsha Mashir – believed to be aged between 11 – 13 – has been in custody since she was arrested in the poor Islamabad suburb of Mehrabad more than two weeks ago. She is accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran, in breach of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, if found guilty the child faces the death penalty.
Local Muslim cleric Hafiz Khalid Chishti has been accused of planting evidence to strengthen the case against the girl. Chishti was arrested on Saturday after his assistants told a magistrate he had added pages from the Koran to the burnt pages ::::
“The imam was arrested after his deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate he added pages from the Koran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness,” police investigator Munir Hussain Jaffri said.
The investigator says Mr Zubair and the two others, Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahmed, told police they had urged Chishti not to interfere with the papers.
“They protested that he should not add something to the evidence and he should give the evidence to the police as he got it and should not do this,” he said. ”But they said Chishti said: ‘You know this is the only way to expel the Christians from this area’.”
Chishti, who arrived at court on Sunday blindfolded and handcuffed and guarded by armed police commandos, was remanded in custody for 14 days and will be held at the same jail as Rimsha.
On August 24 Chishti told AFP that he thought Rimsha had burned the pages deliberately as part of a Christian “conspiracy” to insult Muslims. He said action should have been taken sooner to stop what he called their “anti-Islam activities” in Mehrabad.
Mr Jaffri says the cleric was arrested at his home on Saturday under the blasphemy law.
“By putting these pages in the ashes he also committed desecration of the Holy Koran and he is being charged with blasphemy,” he said.
It is clear there have been some tensions between Muslims and Christians in the area, as there have been in many parts of Pakistan where minorities are often discriminated against.
Christians in particular are frequently arrested on the grounds of blasphemy. What has made this case so high profile is that the accused is a child and one with learning difficulties.
A medical report earlier this week said Rimsha appeared to be around 14 years old, which would make her a minor, and had a mental age below her true age. The court has yet to decide whether to accept the assessment.
Some reports have said Rimsha has Down’s Syndrome and her case has prompted concern from Western governments and anger from rights groups, who warn the blasphemy legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas.
She is being held in a high-security jail in Islamabad’s twin city Rawalpindi and on Friday a judge extended her remand for another two weeks.
Blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in the Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammed often prompt a furious public reaction.
Original Post: A teenage - Christian - girl with Down Syndrome has been arrested in Islamabad on blasphemy charges in Pakistan, accused of burning pages inscribed with verses from the Quran, a conviction for blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan.
Local Ramna police say the girl, known as Rimsha, was arrested on Thursday after she was reported to be holding burnt pages which had Islamic text and Koranic verses on them.
A local police official said the girl, who he described as being in her early teens, was taken to a police station in the capital Islamabad, where she has been detained since. Indian press and All Pakistan Minorities Alliance is reporting that the girl is 11 years old. The police official, who requested anonymity, told AFP that angry Muslim protesters had held rallies demanding the girls punishment.
“We had to register the case fairly quickly to prevent any unpleasant situation,” the officer said, referring to the demonstrations.
Rimsha was produced before an Islamabad court on Friday and remanded in custody for 14 days, another police official said. She is expected to go before the court again by end of this month :: Read the full article »»»»