Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti aka Khalid Jadoon
being led to court. Photo AFP
As many readers of BPCA will already know, the imam who accused Rimsha of blasphemy has been arrested for fabricating evidence after a witness at his mosque reported that he had added torn pages of the Quran to ashes allegedly from Rimsha Masih's bag, allegedly saying 'This will get rid of the Christians'. Reports indicate that several more witnesses have come forward to confirm this. Wilson Chowdhry our Chairman was interviewed on this emerging news on Sunday morining by 11 BBC local Radio stations including BBC Humberside, BBC Torquay, BBC Manchester and others. This is good news, but BPCA would like to point out
1) that the charges were originally about pages burnt from a book teaching Arabic. As far as we know, these accusations still stand. Moreover Blasphemy cases are cognisable; a legal definition that means she will have to go through the court process unless President Zardari uses his power of veto. There is no other option such as retraction of the charges or any other compromise. So at this stage Rimsha is not yet exonerated.
2) Rimsha is still in prison, in adult prison although she is a minor with learning difficulties, locked up with Islamicists and murderers, including the man who assassinated governor Taseer over the blasphemy laws.
3) According to sources, even though she is so traumatized she can barely speak, the police have apparently sent a report saying that she admitted to burning the pages of the book. Given the pressure felt by even adult and mentally normal people accused of blasphemy, and given her age and condition and trauma, the BPCA wants to highlight this fact, and that such 'confessions' could still be used against her.
4) Chishti's lawyer has openly called for Rimsha to be killed if she is released / aquitted.
5) We support the use of maximum penalties against him. In the Old Testament, one of the times when 'eye for an eye' was mandated was when people falsely accused others. It acts as a deterrent. Christian forgiveness should not However, the fact remains that
a) the laws are wrong, and a tool of discrimination and need to change
b) the must be a concerted revolution in the attitude of Pakistani society over cases like this - after all so many Christians and judges have been murdered when they were correctly acquitted, others have to go into hiding for the rest of their lives and emigrate.
c) Muslims are all too frequently let off, while maximum penalties are applied to Christians on very dubious, if not outright false charges.
d) This one case, even if he does get charged and convicted, and not let off after pressure from the usual sources, does not change the fact that point c) applies across Pakistan.
6) The imam has been arrested because of the outrageousness of his accusations, the nature of the victim, and the fact that there were eyewitnesses to his duplicity who were prepared to come forward. A one off case as clear cut like this does not help those many other victims who don't have people prepared to stand up for them, whose cases are less in the public eye, and whose alleged crimes (eg spoken word blasphemy cases only) leave no physical evidence of the falsity of the accusations - it's just the word of one (despised, and disbelieved under Sharia law) Christian against that of an 'honoured Muslim'. Even if all goes as it should, the unjust laws, especially given the deeply discriminatory and terroristic nature of Pakistani society for minorities, continue.
7) This one case is one of many many other cases of blasphemy accusations, each equally spurious, but for whom justice is unlikely to be done, especially since they are not in the eye of the media
8) For instance, Asia Bibi is still on death row, sentenced to death, and living in fear of fellow prisoners poisoning her.