THE young Pakistani Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, accused of
desecrating the Qur'an, is in hiding after being released on bail
Rimsha was freed after a Muslim cleric from her home district of
Islamabad was arrested for allegedly planting evidence to
incriminate her (News,
Pakistan's Minister for National Harmony, Paul Bhatti, denied
reports that she and her family had been flown out of the country,
but told media that they had been moved to a "safe place selected
by the authorities". He said: "She will not face threats, because
everybody believes she is innocent."
Rimsha, who is understood to have learning difficulties and be
aged about 14, had been held in a high-security prison for three
weeks after being accused of burning pages from the Qur'an. On her
release, she was immediately flown by helicopter to a reunion with
relatives in an undisclosed location.
In an interview with the US TV network CNN, Rimsha expressed
fear for her life, but said that she was happy to be back with her
family. She refused to answer questions about the alleged incident,
but asserted that she was innocent and was falsely accused. Her
father said that no one in his family would dishonour the
Rimsha's case has excited tremendous international interest and
focused attention on Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Two high-profile
politicians were assassinated last year after they demanded reform
of the law and the release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman
sentenced to death (News,
4 March 2011; 7 January
Rimsha's case has found sympathetic coverage in the country's
media, however, and several leading Islamic clerics have offered
support and asked for the charges to be dropped.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 per
cent of the population are Muslim. In the past, accusations of
blasphemy have led to vigilante killings.
The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS)
welcomed Rimsha's release. CLAAS's UK Co-ordinator, Nasir Saeed,
said: "There are, however, many accusations of blasphemy against
Christians and other minorities in Pakistan that never make the
news headlines. . . Even those who do not fall victim to
extra-judicial killings face the death penalty or years in prisons,
where the conditions are terrible."
The World Council of Churches will be holding an international
hearing on the misuse of the blasphemy law and religious minorities
in Pakistan next week in Switzerland. The public hearing in Geneva
will examine the concerns and reported human-rights violations of
persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan.
Last Saturday, Pakistani Christians from Birmingham, Walsall,
and Coventry demonstrated at the Pakistani Consulate in Birmingham
over the detention, but dispersed after news of her release came
through. The chairman of the British Pakistani Christian
Association, which helped organise the protest, Wilson Chowdhry,
said: "The battle does not stop here, and Rimsha will still have to
undergo a full trial; moreover, other victims continue to suffer.
We can rejoice, however, as a small step towards success was
achieved with today's result, and a child is back with her