More twists and turns in a Pakistan blasphemy case

Source:         www.MNNonline.org

Date:             October 12, 2012

 

Pakistan (ODN/MNN) ― Pakistan's courts granted bail this week to the Muslim cleric accused of framing Rimsha Masih in a blasphemy case.

According to CNN reports, this came after witnesses who initially accused the cleric of tampering with evidence to frame the girl recanted their statements. Masih family attorney Tahir Naveed said the backtracking of the witnesses would not cause much harm to Rimsha's case because her innocence has already been established. One good thing, he adds, is the discussion of how the blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores.

Naveed told Open Doors News, "We will ask the judge to quash the charges against her." He went on to say the family indicated they would likely remain in Pakistan after the legal ordeal is over. "For now, it's certain that the family of Mizrek Masih will not seek asylum outside Pakistan. We will relocate them and also help in arranging employment for the father."

Masih is due in an Islamabad juvenile court on October 17. She was arrested in August on suspicion of desecrating Islamic texts. But after court officials verified her age, and then evidence came to light of a framing, the case was transferred to the juvenile court.

Other Christians who fled the backlash in the Masih neighborhood are slowly trying to return home. Naveed assures them that the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance party is looking after the needs of returning Christians and that relations with Muslims are calm.

However, "Some members of Rimsha's congregation, who gathered last Sunday for worship at the church in the affected area, were stopped from playing the harmonium and tablas when they were singing hymns," said a Christian pastor identified as Ahsraf, who said he provided shelter to several Christians fleeing from Meherabadi at his church in Islamabad's Sector G-8. "The tension is pretty much out there."

Christians who live some streets away from Rimsha's home have returned to their homes, while those who lived closer to her home have preferred to relocate, said Napolean Qayyum, a field director for World Vision in Progress, which describes itself as "a ground organization working for the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan."

With the huge outcry that came with the Masih case, there was hope that it was the first step into repealing Pakistan's anti-blasphemy law. That changed abruptly on September 11, 2012. Large swaths of the Islamic world ignited over an anti-Muslim Internet video "Innocence of Muslims." The video completely undermined progress made in religious harmony between Christians and Muslims. In Pakistan alone, 26 people died in riots.

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