Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Most
Pakistanis have welcomed the court's decision to drop charges against Rimsha
Masih. Christian and Muslims have praised the court for its decision, a "great
development" according to Islamabad Bishop Mgr Rufin Anthony. However, Islamist
extremists cannot hide their anger at the ruling, and accuse the government of
putting pressures on the court to get the sentence it wanted.
Islamabad High Court today, citing a lack of evidence, threw out all charges
against Rimsha Masih, the 14-year-old Catholic girl accused of breaking the 'black law'.
The case against Khalid Jadoon Chishti, the imam who falsely accused the girl
in order to provoke the expulsion of Christians to seize their goods, homes and
assets, was not however dismissed.
broke out, the case caused worldwide outcry, given the girl's young age and the
clear proof that it was based on manipulation and false testimony.
development," Mgr Rufin Anthony
told AsiaNew. With this
decision, "We saw the court take a clear stand" despite "huge pressures" from
bishop of Islamabad, new, clearer legislation is needed to put a stop to the
abuses committed in the name of blasphemy laws in Pakistan. "Minorities have
been targeted for far long enough," he explained.
"This is indeed a bold decision,"
said Fr John Mall, from the Diocese of Lahore (Punjab). In this case, "justice has
Now, the clergyman hopes the
authorities will do something about the other cases still pending, "especially
in central Punjab," where minorities suffer under the joke of discrimination.
Fr James John, from the Diocese of Multan,
also hopes to see some changes. "There is a long list of innocent people in
jail for blasphemy. They too must be saved. Rimsha has become the symbol of
change for Pakistan's minorities."
Not everyone in Pakistan has
welcomed the court's decision, especially among extremist groups. Unlike past
cases, they are now the ones complaining about undue pressures on the courts.
For example, Maulana Mehfooz Khan,
from the Islamic Ideology Council, claims that the "judiciary was pressurised
in this decision." In his view, a heavy-handed "government machinery" has had "an
effect on witnesses," whose statements were manipulated.
"We have our reservations regarding
the decision" he said. "Although we are against the misuse of the blasphemy
law, it is unacceptable for the judiciary to be threatened when it has to decide."
Khan's statement is strange to say
the least given the fact that until now protests by Muslim fundamentalists have
led to arbitrary arrests, summary convictions and extrajudicial murders, all in
the name of the 'black law'.
One case to
illustrate this involves Asia Bibi, a 46-year-old mother of five. Still on
death row three years after her sentence, she is still waiting for the court to
hear her appeal because of pressures from extremists who want her dead.
is impunity against prosecution. Many people who took the law in their own
hands, individually or in a group, are still at large despite having killed or
destroyed property (like in Koriyan
and Gojra, in 2009), or stolen assets and properties, all in the name of the
blasphemy law, and this owing to the silence, if not the complicity of police