Islamabad: Rimsha Masih, a disabled blasphemous Christian child, on trial tomorrow
by Jibran Khan
Free on bail since September 7, the girl will be tried (on false charges) for burning the Koran. Her presence in the courtroom in doubt over fears for her safety. Bishop Rufin Anthony, her case will be crucial to "reform the blasphemy laws." Muslim leader: "daughter of Pakistan", her release example of "interfaith harmony".

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Tomorrow, September 13th the hearing of the case brought against Rimsha Masih, a Christian child with mental illness, arrested and imprisoned on charges of blasphemy. On 7 September, the judges decreed her release on bail, greeted with satisfaction by Christian leaders and her family in an interview with our newsagency (see AsiaNews 07/09/2012 "I am very happy for my daughter's liberation," Rimsha Masih's father tells AsiaNews, and Paul Bhatti: " joy and satisfaction" for Rimsha Masih's release (on bail)). Her freedom cost one million rupees (about 9 thousand euro) and tomorrow - at the end of the 14 day extension decided by the court on August 31 - the trial will begin. In Pakistan rumors abound regarding her possible presence in the courtroom: If she appears before the judges, the bail will be refunded. However, the dangers for her safety remain high and someone believe that, despite the hearing scheduled in maximum security, she will remain in the "safe and peaceful" location where she hosted with her parents and siblings.

Some claim efforts are being made to seek the expatriation of the family, deemed necessary given the risks of retaliation if they remain in Pakistan. A hypothesis rejected by Muslim religious leaders interviewed by AsiaNews, who say that Rimsha is "daughter of Pakistan" and her story will become a "prime example of interfaith harmony." Paul Bhatti, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for National Harmony ensures that she "will remain in Pakistan." Remarkably, the sum of one million rupees - a very high figure, if equated to the average income - fixed by the tribunal has also caused concerns (and voices) of a possible flight abroad.

In an interview released yesterday by the U.S. network CNN, Rimsha Masih (pictured with her father) strongly denied she had burned parts of a book containing verses from the Koran, punished by the blasphemy law in Pakistan with life imprisonment. She confirms the false charges, artfully assembled by Imam Khalid Chishti Jadoon, who was arrested by the police as the real author of the desecration of the holy book of Islam. He wanted to blame the Christians and trigger a vendetta against them, in order to take possession of their land and property. "I'm scared - she said - and I'm afraid someone will kill us."

Speaking to AsiaNews about the trial, the bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi, Msgr. Rufin Anthony, said that the case "is a milestone" for justice in Pakistan, to "highlight the necessary reforms to the blasphemy laws." The prelate added that the girl "was scared" and the whole affair "has left her with major trauma." He adds that "the whole family fears for their safety." The fact remains, Msgr. Anthony concludes, that "Rimsha is innocent and should be acquitted of all charges immediately."

Mehfooz Maulana Ahmed Khan, an expert on Islamic law, wishes to emphasize the link between the girl and the country that of her birth, which is also concerned to ensure her safety. "Rimsha and her family - he tells AsiaNews - are sheltered in Pakistan, [Rimsha] is a daughter of Pakistan." In his view, the family "can return to live in the suburb" of belonging and "should not leave the country" as indeed they themselves desire. "People who are trying to send them abroad - said the Islamic leader - are somehow conspiring against Pakistan. We will use this case as an example of interfaith harmony."