Islamabad (AsiaNews) - A "sad" incident has caused the
flight of "more than 600 families [. . .] fearful of violence," said Paul
Bhatti, the prime minister's national harmony adviser, as he spoke to AsiaNews about the arrest of an
11-year-old girl with Down's syndrome who could get life
in prison for alleged blasphemy. The Catholic politician does not spare
activists and human rights organisations from his criticism. In his view, they have
manipulated the facts and speculated on the matter for personal gain. Mgr Rufin
Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, agrees. In his view, "many social
network users don't understand that their comments have an impact on the
Rimsha Masih, an 11-year-old girl with a mental
disability, was arrested a few days ago for violating the 'black law.' She is
accused of burning ten pages of an Islamic booklet, Noorani Qaida, used to learn basic Arabic and the Qur'an. She is
also said to have thrown them into the garbage inside a plastic bag. In reaction
to this, a mob of hundreds attacked the girl's family, threatening to do the
same to the local Christian community. The girl is now in a juvenile centre in Rawalpindi,
after she was remanded in custody for 14 days on Saturday.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is closely
following the affair. Yesterday, he ordered the Interior Ministry to
investigate the matter. At the same time, he said that Christian lives and
property must be protected. "We will not allow the misuse of the blasphemy law
at any cost," he said. "We want to ensure that it is not used by anyone for a
personal gain," he added.
For his part, the prime minister's Special Adviser on
National Harmony Paul Bhatti summoned Muslim religious leaders. He wants their
cooperation to keep a lid on the situation and avoid any further incidents. He also
set up a three-member committee to monitor security in the area.
Speaking to AsiaNews about Rimsha
Masih, the Catholic leader noted that "she suffers from Down's Syndrome" and
did not do anything "intentionally." Her actions should be seen in light of her
age and health. "The situation is under control," he said reassuringly, "and we
will have positive developments soon."
At the same time, Bhatti, who is the brother of Shabbaz
Bhatti, the Catholic Minority Affairs minister slain on 2 March 2011 by Muslim
extremists for his opposition to the blasphemy laws, does not mince words about
human rights activists and NGOs. In his view, they have exploited the matter,
each "telling its own version," and manipulated "Christian suffering."
He said they acted "immaturely," playing with the
lives of more than 600 Christian families. "They have no interest in human
life." The Internet and social media should be used more responsibly. "They
should stop posting anything without confirmation" for their own "gain."
Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi,
agrees with Bhatti. The prelate, who condemned the incident, noted that the girl
"did not do anything intentionally," and that she has been "traumatised" by the
course of events.
He said human rights activists were "immature" for
posting "personal versions" of the incident and "distortions" of the facts.
The bishop praised Paul Bhatti for his work, who has
been "making efforts to keep the media away" because they would end up distorting
"Not only are the lives of Rimsha and her parents at
risk, but so are those of more than 600 local families," he explained. "Many
social network users do not understand the impact their comments can have."
According to Human Rights Monitor 2011, the
annual report by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the
Catholic Church of Pakistan, at least 40 people were charged with blasphemy in
2010, including 15 Christians, 10 Muslims and 6 Ahmadis.
The 'black law' has led to murder of 37 people, 18
Christians and 16 Muslims, mostly in extrajudicial executions.
From 1986, when the law came into effect, to 2010,
1,081 people have been charged with blasphemy (138 Christians, 468 Muslims and 454