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