The reality of blasphemy cases in Pakistan has once again been exposed by a brilliant reporter who investigated the case of a young Christian girl, said to have a mental illness, accused of blasphemy. The girl, named Rimsha, was arrested by the police in the country’s capital city Islamabad two weeks ago. The girl was accused by a boy, backed by a local cleric, of burning pages carrying Islam’s sacred text from the holy book Koran. Rimsha denied knowing anything about pages of Koran among the papers she burnt while the evidence submitted to police against her included ash of the allegedly burnt sacred pages.
Rimsha’s arrest aroused concern from human rights groups within and outside Pakistan, including official condemnation from different countries of this open victimization of minority’s underage population under the country’s infamous blasphemy law. Now, the story has taken a 180-degree turn since the Muslim cleric backing the complainant has been arrested for perpetrating this entire plot against the victim. The Express Tribune reports that the cleric, named Khalid Jadoon Chisti, was arrested by the police on Saturday and presented before a judge who sent him on judicial remand, on charges of desecration of Koran.
The development came after a witness stepped forward to tell of Chisti’s plan for getting the Christian girl in trouble. According to him, Chisti tore some Koran pages and included them in ash to present as evidence of desecration committed by the girl. The witness says he and others even tried to stop the cleric from doing so, but the cleric told them that what he was doing would make a strong case of blasphemy against the girl. This plot was all prepared in a mosque where the cleric performs religious service, and then an uproar was raised against Rimsha, getting her arrested by police and threatened by an angry mob with burning alive.
Chisti is now in police custody and remains charged with blasphemy and tampering with evidence. Notable, no angry mobs are coming after him – not reportedly at least. If proved to be involved in starting a fake case of blasphemy and himself desecrating the Koran, Chisti can face a life sentence. There are hopes that Rimsha will be freed from jail soon after this new development in the case.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law has been used frequently to victimize Christians in the country. A woman named Asia Bibi was given a death sentence in 2010 by two courts in Punjab province after she was accused by a group of Muslim women of saying negative things about Islam’s prophet Mohammad. Most courts usually rely on minimal evidence to convict the accused. However, media sources usually don’t follow the cases to the end. One case that led to violence against Christians in Gujranwala (Punjab) received initial coverage of the violence by angry mobs against the area’s Christian community. However, later when a Muslim man confessed of having burnt Koran pages and throwing it all on Christians, the media remained silent on the development.