-AFP File Photo

KARACHI: As the news of the Christian girl Rifta and her ordeal continues to make headlines, what comes to the fore is a sick picture of double victimisation of an individual, first as a religious minority and secondly as a mentally handicapped human being in a society where there is little understanding of mental illnesses.

Currently, the Down syndrome sufferer is being held in the Adiyala Jail for a judicial remand under charges of blasphemy and any progress in the case will be made only after Eid. While voices are being raised as to how a fair trial must be conducted under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000, what is being overlooked is the need for sanity to prevail.

The Bahawalpur case where a malang was killed by over 2000 ‘sane’ people after being accused of blasphemy and the case of this girl show the apathy of our society. So far, there has been no medico-legal examination of the girl to determine her mental health.

Earlier, under 1912 Act, a person could be held for 10-30 days before an inquiry began but after the Mental Health Ordinance 2001, a mentally unstable person could not be detained for more than 72 hours and it was mandatory to carry out psychiatric evaluation within that period, an MLO working in a public hospital in Lahore said.

Till 2001, Pakistan followed the Lunacy Act 1912, the mental health law that was introduced in India, which referred to a person with mental illness as ‘idiot of unsound mind’ or ‘lunatic’. However, in 2001, things improved significantly when the Lunacy Act 1912 was repealed and replaced with the Mental Health Ordinance 2001 (MHO 2001) by Pervez Musharraf.

The ordinance offered a more humane outlook towards individuals with psychological disorders and mental handicaps and allowed them to be given a fair chance. However, after the 18th Amendment, the Federal Mental Health Authority was dissolved and MHO 2001 lapsed. So far, none of the provinces, with the exception of Sindh, has made any effort to take up this issue.

Human rights lawyer Zia Awan agreed that the 2001 ordinance would have offered a more sensible way out in this case.

“If you go by the law, then Section 82 (of) Pakistan Penal Code says that ‘nothing is an offence which is done by a child under seven’ while in Section 83, a judge can decide to ignore the age stated in Section 82, raising it to 12 years, in the case of a child who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding,” Mr Awan explained.

“At the moment, it is important that a psychiatric evaluation is carried out to determine the extent of her mental illness. This girl might have a mental age of a 3-year-old and we have to keep this in mind when doling out a judgment,” he said.

He added that if the MHO 2001 was there, the girl would not have been sent to the jail and would rather have been sent to a ‘facility equipped to take care of her needs’.

Commenting on the situation, Dr Haroon Ahmed, president of the Pakistan Association of Mental Health, said: “There are so many loopholes in our legal system and usually it’s the innocent that gets caught. “So far, we do not have clear-cut definitions of mental illness and when it comes to legislation, mental health service providers are excluded. Currently, no laws address civil or criminal liability of a person suffering from mental illness.”

He said the Pakistani society was already stifling with the ‘mob justice mentality providing a clear reflection of this decay’. “The charges of blasphemy are very serious but how do you determine who is sane and who is not? How do you deal with a schizophrenic person who claims to be a divine entity? Do you treat him for his illness or do you ‘punish’ him?”

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Comments (85)

August 20, 2012 12:46 pm
holy prayer friday meeting is generally good playing round for Mullahs ....if only taught humanity than NICE but Mullahs USE it as misguiding and brain washing day for common people who get turn into religious blind. SO BETTER TO DO PRAYER AT HOME ON FRIDAY RATHER TO GO TO MOSQUE EXCEPT ON EID OR ANY MAIN FESTIVAL DAY LIKE HINDU
August 20, 2012 10:43 am
This is how we have 'educated' ourselves in the last 64 years.
RK pakistani
August 20, 2012 12:45 pm
My dear she did not did any crime she is innocent because she is only 11 years down syndrome girl.
August 20, 2012 5:08 am
These sane peoples are really insane!
Syed Ali Raza Shah
August 21, 2012 9:23 am
Could we simply get HItler back to life and install him in Pakistan so that he can clean up this mess from our country! Kill the "mullah" and all resident arabs (including Taliban) in Pakistan with their entire genetic tree so that this madness can come to an end!
Ali abbas
August 24, 2012 6:50 pm
Dude stop with ignorant comments. If you have been keeping up with recent news current govt has lost its minister and governor in order to fight extremism. Even when they arrest these extremists, Pakistani courts release these evil people.
Ali abbas
August 24, 2012 6:53 pm
I am Pakistani and love my Indian brothers. My advise to you is that don't even think about this. Visit one of the open minded Pakistani family and both parties will learn from each others
Ali abbas
August 24, 2012 6:47 pm
Complete ashamed to be Pakistani right now.
Ali abbas
August 24, 2012 6:46 pm
Our cowardly supreme court will not take any suo moto notice against this atrocity. Their only role appears to be of an opposition party against the federal govt. Shame on our courts and out judges.
Gogi Machhera
August 20, 2012 10:43 am
"Hardliners"? How soft are you on these monsters? These are only beasts who have got the taste of human blood, and would go to any length to fulfill their evil desires of gore and blood.
August 20, 2012 10:02 am
Mulvia need to be controlled otherwise our country will continue to descend into choas and madness!
August 20, 2012 10:03 am
Not the world or other faith, but these mullahs proving that this religion not of peace...
anand singh
August 20, 2012 10:14 am
Islam in Pakistan I feel has been hijacked by the hardliners. The sane are either scared to intervene or indifferent - both are equally bad. Each act like this amounts to another nail in the coffin of sensibility and another step to talibanisation. The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing.
August 20, 2012 9:48 am
Problem: Mullahs are not leading us we are blindly following their own concocted methodologiesl and creed. Resolution: The girl irrespectively of her mental state should be released at once, because of our underage. The minorities of all race and religion should be given the protection by the government and all its institute. Where is military we need at a ike this to protect tthe citizen of Pakistan from terror within, rather than protecting our blurry borders from unknown Al-Qaeda. We need them to send out a message to the hijackers of Islam and our society that enough is enough. Action Plan: Back to Basics - We should learn on our own the in basics of Quran, and Sunaat. It takes minutes per week. Don't donate to unknown outfits. Be discrete in our donations, as to whom we and why we are giving. Give Allah his rights. Give His creation (people, animals, environment) the rights and justice he ordered all Muslims to do in Quran. Sura Kafiroon Fear Allah. Don't oppress the helpless their dua is more lethal than any weapons mankind has ever known.
August 20, 2012 4:57 am
Just forgive her.
August 20, 2012 2:23 pm
The problem with Pakistanis is that they know what the problem is but they do not want to solve the the problem because they are part of the problem and they do not want to be part solution because that would mean 'correcting themselves'.
August 20, 2012 10:23 am
They are not distorting teaching of Islam. They are presenting the fact of it. Its you who are distorting it.
Vijay Kumar
August 20, 2012 1:41 pm
Extremely sad to be called a Pakistani
anwar Pasha
August 20, 2012 12:31 pm
What a sick society, shame humans at its worst.
August 20, 2012 12:30 pm
The problem with Pakistani society is that they don't standup for their right,or shall I say that they don't know the rights at all ,that people in that part of the world want to deny and they live in denial,Pakistan should change its whole system,as no actual system seems to work in Pakistan,the ruling class and the religious parties and the people of Pakistan should invite each other and ask the question where all this is leading to?,after all what people want is to have a good life for them and their families,what the religious party wants, a good respectfull practice of religion and the ruling class make sure that all this happen in a peacefully and right manner,that no rights been baffle,instead of pulling each other legs whenever they can,they should get together and agree to some fundamental rules,and try to work out things,not to spoil things,the religious people should ask the question that by killing the girl what will they gain,and people should ask is it right to kill a person without any legal process and the ruling class should ask as they have done enough ,is the law is suitable to this kind of situation,is there any loop holes and if there are they should take the responsibility to change thing and everybody should just play responsible, so until than good luck Pakistan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
August 20, 2012 12:23 pm
oh Allah please silence these mullahs . pl just give massive Heart attack to that poor down syndrome girl and take her away from mad creation of yours.. she will be more happy in death than in living in Pakistan where the president will not open his mouth. election is coming.
August 20, 2012 12:23 pm
I wonder if there a word "FORGIVENESS" in Quran?, if so why is not followed by these mullahs!!
August 20, 2012 12:00 pm
we hava become an insane nation. Please leave the child alone, she is not a threat to islam our ignorance and intollerence is.
Iqbal khan
August 20, 2012 12:00 pm
Even Muslims are not safe in the hands of these mullahs.
August 20, 2012 11:52 am
and indeed it is not
August 20, 2012 11:51 am
excellent - I agree with you 100% .. the first step is to dissociate religion from State .. secondly dissociate society from religion .. thirdly close down ALL madrassahs irrespective of sect or who is funding it (Saudi Arabia mostly) .. and fourthly have global education under one syllabus all over the country.
August 20, 2012 11:49 am
I am sorry but Pakistan has doomed. There will be civil war and millions of people die. Wait and see... The whole society is completely messed up.
August 20, 2012 11:47 am
It's just a matter of perception to access who is more mad. A kid playing with fire or a mob playing with life.
August 20, 2012 11:46 am
this is what happens when you mix religion and politics
August 20, 2012 10:29 am
Is there anything you can't get away with in the name of religion?
Agha Ata
August 20, 2012 1:17 pm
HERE IS THE ANSWER: Forgive everybody; everybody is mentally ill!
August 20, 2012 10:39 am
These are all the signs of world is nearer to an end. Sin filled Pot is about break as innocents cry is reaching far above.
August 20, 2012 10:39 am
So true.
August 20, 2012 10:35 am
After religion is the pium of mind.tThis event of insane girl has proved the saying.This society is mentally intoxicated by the Madrasas,Mosques, and tableghee groups.These instituitions,having the full support of state,are spreading intolerance,extremism,terrorism and sectarianism.Establishment thinks that the very survival of Pakistan rests with religious extremism and they are the only upholding and unifying force.It is wrong,its survival rests with libralism,moderation and giving political socio-economic rights to the all nations,minorities living in this federation.
August 20, 2012 10:34 am
Intolerant people.God does not need people like these to protect Quran.Poor girl is being victimized by these bigots.Islam does not teach this barbaric behavior.By their poor behavior they are bringing a bad name to pious and tolerant Muslims.
August 21, 2012 10:29 am
Ashamed to be Pakistani.......God help us
September 2, 2012 1:42 pm
So now it has been confrmed that the Imam of the local mosque Khalid Chisti has been arrested for planting the evidence! (and desecrating a Quran!) to help in getting Christians expelled from his area. What punishment should we expect to see now?
ash mirza
August 20, 2012 5:03 am
First of all she is only 11 years old, and mentally ill.......in my opinion she shouldnt be arrested. she must set free...if 11 years old Muslim boy burn the pages of bible.....you think police will arrest him? think about that...another point she may not be educated....and why Muslims giving hard time to Christians? I live in christian country...we never have any problem ..we are free to go to the mosque and pray..Christians do respect Muslims.and other religions...Islam dont teach us HATE...ISLAM IS PEACE AND LOVE......PRESIDENT MUST FREE 11 YRS OLD CHRISTIAN GIRL TODAY...SO SHE CAN ENJOY TO BE WITH HER FAMILY.....AND PROVIDE SECURITY FOR HER AND HER FAMILY MEMBERS. Sincerely, Ash Mirza (USA)
brighton rodeo
August 20, 2012 4:23 am
She has special need for prayer. She should be sent to special facility meant for children and should be safeguarded from predators. Every body in Pakistan is aware of Suleman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhati for standing out for indefensible poor people. Shari Rehman is still in the line. Let is see and time will tell who is leader of braves. God bless Pakistan.
love thy enmy
August 20, 2012 4:30 am
What a sick world we live in
August 20, 2012 5:23 am
I hope the government will take appropriate steps to save the child, her family and the locality to which she belongs from misguided and mentally ill segment of the society.
August 20, 2012 5:32 am
The biggest claim is '' We are followers of a Religion Of Peace''. Now prove this not only to your own citizens, other Muslim countries and rest of the world.
Cyrus Howell
August 20, 2012 5:48 am
A retarded girl really has no way to defend herself has she? This is sad because people with Downs Syndrome do not have a mean bone in their bodies. They are very docile, and some of them don't understand what is going on. Maybe some other kids told her to burn a book. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe her family was trying to get rid of her. Who knows? This is really over reacting to a mentally handicapped person. This is the second time in about two months this has happened. These people are like a pack of hyenas. What is going on with them? For them there is no excuse if she burned a religious book. To me there is no excuse for the way these people are acting. They are going to revolt against the system. The madness is spreading. They are out for blood. No one is listening to them. So the Pakistan army can pick a side. They can be the rulers if they promise to listen. A few good beheadings might calm them down. Maybe a Christian group from Charlottesville, Virginia can plan a package tour of South Waziristan. Get to know folks. Tell them about the Lord.
August 20, 2012 6:30 am
Great country ...Great LAW ...wow thats why this is the only country which has gone backward since Independence.
August 20, 2012 6:57 am
I looked into the 'Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000' to find out the due process. A few points are worth mentioning: Sec 10 (sub-sec 2) states: Where a child accused of non-bail able offence is arrested, he shall, without any delay and in no case later than twenty-four hours from such arrest, be produced before the Juvenile Court. Sec 12 - Orders that shall not be passed with respect to a child… Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any law for the time being in force no child shall be: - (a)Awarded punishment of death The most important concern is where should the accused be kept. Th law mentions that the accused minor should be kept in a borstal institution (“Borstal Institution” means a place where child offender may be detained and given educational and training for their mental, moral and psychological development). However this can only happen once the minor has been produced in the court. As stated in Sec -11 (Release on Probation) Provided that the child released on probation be produced before the Juvenile Court periodically on such dates and time as it may direct. (b)Make an order directing the child offender to be sent to a borstal institution until he attains the age of eighteen years or for the period of imprisonment whichever is earlier. This is a huge flaw in law, since unless the child is released on probation, it means that the child will be kept in prison with adult convicts or under trials.
tahir malik
August 20, 2012 7:00 am
this is not Islam.
August 20, 2012 7:05 am
Once she is out of the jail, everyone who were part of complaint against her should be put in the jail to make an example out of them!
ash mirza
August 20, 2012 7:09 am
Get her out from jail NOW......she is 11years old and mentally ill.....She need to be treated....NOW.... and government of Pakistan must provide her and her family members FULL SUPPORT........ After all fanatic muslim people of Pakistan must understand she is human.....ISLAM IS KIND relegion......ISLAM teach us LOVE.... Sincerely, Ash Mirza (USA)
August 20, 2012 7:18 am
I am pretty sure that God really doesnt care what you say about him especially a 11 year old mentally challenged girl.I am sure he is capable of taking care of himself.In other words just ignore what others say and mind your own bussiness.
Zainab Qureshi
August 20, 2012 7:27 am
Should'nt the sanity of the mob that wanted to burn this mentally handicapped girl to death be in question? How dare they take justice into their own hands. The Law and Order situation of our beloved country has collapsed. I am ashamed to call myself a Pakistani. These people are evil and a disgrace to humanity. We have become the cesspool of the world, amongst the most backward. Even progressive Islamic nations consider us Terrorists. May Allah save us from this mess.
August 20, 2012 7:57 am
We in pakistan are mentelly sick blind society.
August 20, 2012 7:58 am
Poor nation with no tolerance. Is this Islam? No one believe that they represent true teaching of the Holy Prophet. No body is safe from these mullahs either Shias, Ahmadies, Christians and Hindus. Can anybody tell where these so called religious leaders are leading the nation. These mullahs are responsible for blasphemy as they are distortation the teachings of Islam.
farrukh chowdry
August 20, 2012 8:09 am
Pakistan is controlled by religious extremists so they will kill her before she can go to courts.
August 20, 2012 8:15 am
She is at least alive being in jail. Even if she hasn't Downs there is no trail being Minor. Hers and her family's days in land of PURE are numbered, UK,France or Germany. My concern is as regards the safety of our President and the headache his security officer has suddenly developed.
August 20, 2012 8:16 am
It seems by and large our society has turned insane. There is no justice for any one. Horrible things are happening all around. There is no hope left.
August 20, 2012 8:27 am
After all religion is opium for masses
disgusted muslim
August 20, 2012 8:52 am
To these people the printed pages of a book is more important than very human being for whom the book was sent in first place. What happened to the message of the book?
August 20, 2012 9:22 am
August 20, 2012 9:23 am
August 20, 2012 9:29 am
I've no more words left to describe the Pakistani society, Period.
Karachi Wala
August 20, 2012 9:32 am
Before anything is done in this little girl's case, there should be a head eximination of those who are after this little girl.
August 20, 2012 3:45 pm
yap 100% agreed
August 20, 2012 3:51 pm
r u sure ...
Foreign Pakistani
August 20, 2012 4:04 pm
I think problem is in us (people) why we listen to these uneducated mullah speeches and worst to act upon. The second issue is poor law and order implementation. If these people are tried to the full extent of the law. the situation will get normal soon
August 20, 2012 5:02 pm
I visited Pakistan in 2000 for a congress but could visit only Islamabad, university and some nearby areas. I found Pakistani people friendly and warm. I was told Islamabad is perhaps least courteous and other cities like Karachi and Lahore receive visitors (Indians like me in particular) with even more warmth. But when I read your news papers past few years I do not recognise it. it saddens me. Today however reading response of my brothers in Pakistan towards horrific ordeal of this poor girl my hopes have revised and I am sure the true Pakistan will emerge again from shadows.
August 20, 2012 6:56 pm
Thank You, Jainab.
August 20, 2012 8:53 pm
Actually in the last 34 years. We were ok before Zia
Muhammad Khaleel
August 20, 2012 9:08 pm
Your attitude itself is the best example of not listening to the truth. Go back take a deep breath and talk to yourself and be honest to yourself and you will find the answer. There were people during the time of our great prophet who did not believe him but he never thought of hurting them. Killing is a big thing. There is no "maafi" even from God. Peace, tolerance, acceptance and love for each other are the only options that Pakistan can survive. We are running out of time!! Let God pass the judgment, don't take His place and remember HE IS MERCIFUL (I think this is what talked about the most in Quran). Think..... think.... you will find the honest answer. Our "sarzameen" is not just made for Muslims alone or Mullah mainly. It's for all human beings regardless which religion they belong to. In fact, it's the DUTY of each and every Muslim to be caring and loving otherwise let's avoid calling ourselves Muslims. We are not there yet!
August 20, 2012 9:10 pm
Meanwhile, american lands on Mars!
August 20, 2012 10:58 pm
shame on these Mullas. all educated people should come farword,and condemnd these mullas
August 21, 2012 12:57 pm
Buddy this how we Indians interpret it, not the Mulla brains
Mad Dog
August 21, 2012 1:07 am
@ Agha Ata yeah you got that right
August 21, 2012 2:10 am
Army is the root cause of evil in the country. Bureaucrats,politicians or mullah they are all under her control.
August 21, 2012 2:24 am
Jaane Kub Kaun Kise Yahaan Kaafir Keh De Shehar Ka Shehar Musalman Hua Phirta Hai
August 21, 2012 2:50 am
Can any body tell that either our Holy Prophet ever punished over blasphemy? I think most of the people in Mecca committed blasphemy, but he forgave all his enemies. Do these MULLAHS have any logic behind this blasphemy law.
August 21, 2012 4:23 am
Where is Supreme Court and Chief Justice now. CJ should jump in and save one life, otherwise the result will be the same as people burnt one person some months ago. These suo moto action should not be only against government.
August 21, 2012 5:18 am
I am Indian, thinking of visiting and witnessing Pakistan for the culturally rich and civilization once in my lifetime. I love the civilization in Sindh region of Pakistan, at least i wanted to visit the great museums there. Now i have to think many times before arriving Pakistan.
August 21, 2012 5:34 am
Somebody please help this innocent young girl.
August 21, 2012 5:44 am
There are always such senseless groups or mobs in every society be it US, Europoe, China or India. So Pakistan is not unique. What we do not have is efficient governance. Good governance would taking swift actions and countermeasures to control the situation. Not let it become shameful story for the nation.
muhammad raza
August 21, 2012 6:21 am
Why make statements, lets do something.....
August 21, 2012 6:27 am
What role does Government play in this? Where is Government? What taking them this long to free this little girl? They are all afraid of religious terrorist and there is no leadership left in Pakistan.
August 21, 2012 8:13 am
kafir you are right.............i second you......probably at the time of compilation of sharia laws, they did not know of dow's syndrome, so they couldn't frame it in keepig with the punsihment that should be meeted out to a handicapped girl.
August 21, 2012 8:18 am
wah wah wah.....blessings on the writer who composed this line....
Syed Ahmed
August 22, 2012 2:34 am
First of all she is underage. She is reported to be 11 years old. And hence only a child. And if this is not enough to evoke compassion in the hard hearts of the wild beasts who masquerade asguardians of Islam then please also note that she is reportedly suffering from Down's Syndrome. Her place is in a hospital where she should be cared for. Where are her parents? Frightened out of their wits and in hiding to escape a lynch mob? I wouldn't blame them. To these Beasts: Think for a moment what if it were your 11 year old daughter suffering from a mental disease and being held in a prison . Muslims? You are not fit to be called humans. A Pakistani Abroad
Naresh Sharma
August 22, 2012 6:07 am
Dear Dawn i wanted to share my recent Experience which i had on Eid, I was going by a Mosque and Mosque were preaching abt Islam.... they were telling to people they are blessed by Allah bcoz they are born in a Muslim family... I feel according to my knowledge Allah has made us humans but we have made religion like Islam and Hinduism. But we are fool who are listening to them. .. and fighting and killing each other.... No religion allow to kill people...
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