11-year-old girl arrested in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy


Islamabad: An 11-year-old Christian girl has been arrested in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on a charge of blasphemy after she was accused of burning pages of the Quran, police said today. Officials of Ramna police station said a First Information Report (FIR) had been registered against Rimsha Masih, a resident of Umara Jaffar in Sector G-12 in Islamabad.

The girl was arrested on Friday by personnel from a women’s police station after a man named Syed Muhammad Ummad filed a complaint against her. However, an NGO named ‘Christians in Pakistan’ reported on its website that the girl has ‘Down Syndrome’ and had been falsely accused of burning 10 pages of the Quran. The NGO said other Christians living in Sector G-12 had been “threatened by extremists” who wanted to burn down their village on Friday. It said some 300 people had left their homes and were in hiding due to the threats.

The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) is providing assistance to people who have left their homes. National Harmony Minister Paul Bhatti, who is also the chairman of the APMA, has contacted Islamic clerics and police to bring the situation under control. Rights activists have urged the government to reform or repeal the controversial blasphemy law, which they say is often misused to persecute minorities like Christians. Federal Minister Paul Bhatti’s brother Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the Minister for Minority Affairs, was gunned down by extremists in Islamabad in March last year after he called for the repeal of the blasphemy law.

NOTE: Hundreds of Hindu families in Pakistan have crossed over to India from the Wagah Border apparently on a pilgrimage. Many have told the Indian media that they would be returning to Pakistan because of the continued threat of forced conversion – apparently young Hindu girls are being converted to Islam by forced marriages with Muslim men who are often twice their age!