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    » 11/20/2012, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Paul Bhatti: the acquittal of Rimsha Masih, an important "precedent" in blasphemy cases



    The Catholic minister speaks of "double satisfaction": the verdict states that the law cannot be used "for personal use" and whoever calumniates "will suffer a similar trial." The congratulations and satisfaction of Christian leaders and Muslim personalities. The case will be used to revise not the law, but its interpretation. "I'm optimistic", he says, "the society is changing."

    Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The verdict of acquittal for Rimsha Masih, the Catholic minor with mental problems, indicted for blasphemy, is cause for "double satisfaction". First, the event constitutes "an important precedent" whereby the law "cannot be used for personal purposes." In addition, those who "unjustly" accuse other people "themselves risk a trial and penalties" under the Pakistan Penal Code. This is what the Catholic Paul Bhatti told AsiaNews; Bhatti is the Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for National Harmony, and does not hide his satisfaction at the positive outcome of the event involving the girl. However, in this moment of joy for the religious minority, he does not spare criticism of those (including Christians) who exploit blasphemy cases for personal gain, to raise money and funding especially abroad.

    Today the High Court in Islamabad - after several updates and suspensions of the sessions - finally acquitted the 14 year old Catholic Rimsha Masih (see AsiaNews 11/20/12Islamabad: the charge of blasphemy dismissed for Rimsha Masih, a disabled Christian girl) of the charge of violating the "black law", archiving the case because the crime never occurred. Instead, the proceedings against Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti continue; Chishti slandered the minor in order to obtain the expulsion of the Christian community and to seize their goods and property. The story had prompted international concern due to the girl's young age and the manipulation of blasphemy charges.

    Speaking to AsiaNews, Paul Bhatti, brother of the Minister for Minorities Shahbaz, massacred by Islamic fundamentalists with 30 gunshots in March 2011 for having defended Asia Bibi, another Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, does not hide his "happiness and joy". "It is not a victory", the special adviser for National Harmony immediately explained, "it is just one element of justice that carries a great message: those who use the law for personal purposes have been defeated; and to this there is added the certainty that those who make false charges are likely to suffer the same fate and be tried."

    The Catholic politician and ranking minister explained that he had handled the affair "in order to control protests or demonstrations by Christians," as opposed to what had occurred several times in the past; the street demonstrations "exacerbated the minds of Muslims, making things worse". In this case, he underlined, "I asked for further investigations, avoiding public protests" and with the cooperation of government and police forces, "we got a satisfactory result." At the same time, he wished to dedicate this first verdict to his brother Shahbaz Bhatti: "I followed his method", said Paul, "and his experience", which are proving to be fundamental in daily work.

    He also tells of the messages of congratulation "from many Christian personalities," along with phone calls and shows of appreciation and congratulations "from just as many Muslims." "They, too", the minister confirmed, "sought to express joy and closeness to the acquittal of Rimsha Masih" who is now in a safe place, along with the rest of her family. The story, Bhatti concluded, will not lead to a "revision" of the law, but constitutes a "precedent" to improve the "interpretation" of cases and events of blasphemy. A group of imams, ulema and Muslim religious leaders have confirmed that they have established a working group, called to introduce those adjustments that will prevent abuses. I am optimistic: Pakistani society is changing; peace and stability in Pakistan are fundamental also for the rest of the world."(DS) 

     

     

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    See also

    20/11/2012 PAKISTAN
    Islamabad: blasphemy charge dismissed for Rimsha Masih, the disabled Christian girl
    Rimsha and her family have had to live in hiding due to death threats. The allegations mounted by an imam who wanted to drive Christians from the area and take possession of their goods. A campaign for Rimsha supported by Paul Batthi and the bishop of Islamabad, Msgr. Rufin Anthony, as well as by several Muslim personalities.

    16/01/2013 PAKISTAN
    Supreme Court upholds Rinsha Masih's innocence, Paul Batthi satisfied
    Pakistan's highest court rejects prosecutors' appeal. For the Christian girl's lawyers, the verdict "sends out a positive image of Pakistan". Paul Bhatti tells AsiaNews that they did not flee but placed their faith in the justice system.

    01/09/2012 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan, Rimsha Masih bail hearing adjourned
    The Islamabad court will decide on bail for disabled Christian girl accused of blasphemy on September 3. The National Commission for Justice and Peace reopens the debate on education in Pakistan and denounces: in Punjab and Sindh 2012-2013, textbooks filled with hatred and false history against Hindus, Christians and people of India.

    20/11/2012 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Christians happy about Rimsha Masih verdict, Islamists talk about "manipulation"
    For the bishop of Islamabad, the ruling is a "great development." Now a law to end blasphemy abuses is needed. A Lahore priest sees the decision as a legal milestone. Islamists however are angered, blaming the government for putting pressures on the court.

    17/10/2012 PAKISTAN
    Rimsha Masih's trial adjourned to 14 November as anti-Christian violence continues
    The High Court in Islamabad delays the trial before deciding whether to drop the blasphemy charges or not. The girl's lawyers want the case thrown out of court. In Karachi, a mob of extremists attack St Francis Catholic Church. In Faisalabad, Christians praying for Malala Yousafzai come under attack.



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