08/25/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN - INDIA
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Free Rimsha Masih, the 11-year-old disabled girl arrested for blasphemy, Indian leader says

by Nirmala Carvalho
Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), appeals to the international community and Pakistan's high commissioner to India. The girl could get life in prison. The GCIC wants her family to be protected and all blasphemy laws used to discriminate against Pakistan's religious minorities abolished.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Sajan George, president of Global Council of Indian Christians (GCI) has appealed for the immediate release of Rimsha Masih and for the protection of her family. He has also called for the repeal of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, once and for all. For the past week, the 11-year-old Christian girl, who suffers from a mental disability, has been locked up in a jail on blasphemy charges and could get life in prison. She is accused of burning the pages of an exercise book used to learn Arabic and the Qur'an.

The event occurred on 17 August in Umara Jaffar (Islamabad), where Rimsha lives with her family. After her action, local imams stirred local Muslims who attacked their Christian neighbours. Some 300 families fled.

"Rimsha Mashi's arrest should serve to draw the world's attention to the abuses committed in Pakistan in the name of the blasphemy laws," George said. "They are used routinely to suppress dissent, harass rivals, and settle petty disputes among neighbours. They are also used for economic and political reasons."

"False accusations of blasphemy have led to violence against Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan. Numerous human rights abuses stem from the blasphemy laws. Pakistan must repeal them and this is the right time for the international community to put pressure on Pakistan."

"Besides human rights, and child rights, Rimsha is even being denied legal rights," the GCIC chairman said. "Her lawyer is being denied access to her by prison authorities. Additionally, even though Rimsha is a minor, she was put in an adult jail in the same prison as Mumtaz Qadri, the hero of the Islamists who killed Taseer. The GCIC fears for her life inside the prison."

Punjab Governor Taseer was killed on 4 January 2011 by Qadri, his body guard, for defending Asia Bibi and for his opposition to the blasphemy laws.

In appealing to Pakistan's high commission in India, Sajan George said, "The so-called champions of Islam are wrecking havoc on religious minorities and are further defaming Pakistan and Islam in the world."

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