(AsiaNews) - A court in Islamabad, "has ordered the release on bail"
of Rimsha Masih, the mentally impaired child, arrested in recent weeks as a
result of (false) accusations of blasphemy. The
news was confirmed by Paul Bhatti, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for
National Harmony, who descried to AsiaNews
the "joy and satisfaction" of the entire Pakistani community, Christian and non
Christian, because "justice has been done." The
Catholic politician who holds the post of federal minister, says that the
courts have set the sum for his release "at 500 thousand rupees"
(about 4 thousand euro) and she will soon be under "the protection of the
Ministry for National Harmony and APMA lawyers"- Association All Pakistan
Minorities Alliance, founded by Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for religious
minorities assassinated in March 2011 by Islamic extremists - who "have
worked most to achieve this. "
In his first reactions to the news, given to AsiaNews, Paul Bhatti says that "justice was done" through hard work "carried out behind the scenes" in an attempt to avoid tensions and riots. To achieve the goal, says the Catholic minister, the work of the Ministry of the Interior, the government in Islamabad and the ulema, the Muslim religious leaders was "vital", who made every effort to "maintain calm and the search for truth. "
"Our special and well deserved thanks - says the leader of the State Council for National Harmony - goes to the police and investigators who worked hard and well, with a special mention for the police chief in Islamabad." The minister says the positive outcome gives "a positive image of Pakistan and Islam," which has averted possible abuses related to the blasphemy laws. It now remains to solve the situation of hundreds of Christian families fled their homes when the story erupted, for fear of retaliation by the lunatic fringe. "Some people have returned to their homes - says Paul Bhatti - and are quietly getting on with things. Anyway we are working for the rehabilitation of the entire community in their area of origin or by moving them to an area made available by the Archdiocese of Lahore" which has "offered" to receive displaced persons.
On 31 August, the judges of the court of Islamabad extend Rimsha Masih's terms of custody by two weeks. The Christian girl suffers from mental problems and was accused of blasphemy for reportedly having desecrated pages containing verses of the Koran. Under the Pakistan Penal Code she risked life imprisonment and, on several occasions, feared retaliation from elements close to the fundamentalist Taliban, who have repeatedly carried out extra-judicial murders of persons indicted for blasphemy and attacked family members or persons to the same community of the accused.
This morning, the court assessed the application for bail presented by APMA lawyers, who have been by the family's side from the outset in their struggle for justice, after a medical committee confirmed to the court that the girl is under 14 years of age, but displays a far younger mental age (see AsiaNews 28/08/2012 Blasphemy, Rimsha Masih, minor with mental problems. Bishop of Islamabad: a positive outcome). This was disputed by the Islamists, who pushed for charges to be laid against her, challenging the medical report (see AsiaNews 30/08/2012 Islamabad, Islamic leaders challenge medical report, call for punishment of Rimsha Masih).
However, in a dramatic development police that has further Rimsha's case for her innocence, police arrested Khalid Chishti Jadoon, the imam who denounced the Christian girl for the alleged burning of pages containing verses from the Koran. On Aug. 31 a courageous witness in a sign of marked civic responsibility, identified by the name of Hafiz Zubair, found the strength to appear before investigators and denounce Chishti for slander. The religious leader had in fact falsely and in a very deliberately accused Rimsha Masih of violating the "black law", by planting false evidence against her.
September 1, police arrest him on the same charges he had laid against the Christian child, blasphemy, for desecrating the Koran, and now he faces a sentence of up to life imprisonment. According to preliminary reports, the imam added the pages of the Koran to burnt paper that the child was carrying, which the witness had given him just before, thus accusing the young girl in his efforts to spark a witch hunt against Christians and force them flee the neighborhood in order to take possession of their property. (DS)