Dawn News

Zardari seeks report on girl's blasphemy case

Asif ali Zardari
President Asif Ali Zardari — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's president on Monday called on officials to explain the arrest on blasphemy charges of a Christian girl with Down's Syndrome who allegedly burnt pages inscribed with verses from the Quran.

There is a growing debate about religious intolerance in Pakistan, where strict anti-blasphemy laws make defaming Islam or desecrating the Quran punishable by death.

Police said the girl, Rifta, was arrested in a Christian slum of the capital last Thursday and remanded in custody for 14 days after a furious Muslim mob demanded she be punished.

A police official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the girl was in her teens. Activists say she is 11 years old.

President Asif Ali Zardari took “serious note” of the arrest and called on the interior ministry to submit a report on the case, state media said.

His government was heavily criticised in the West for refusing to reform the anti-blasphemy law, despite the assassinations of a leading politician and a Christian cabinet minister in 2011.

Some reports suggested the girl had been burning papers collected from the rubbish for cooking when someone entered her house and accused the family of burning pages inscribed with verses from the Quran.

Human rights activists say the law is often used to settle petty disputes.

Muslim anger over the alleged incident forced Christians to flee the Mehrabad slum, home to hundreds of Christians 20 minutes' drive from Western embassies.

“These Christians had sought shelter with their relatives in other parts of the city but now they are gradually returning to Mehrabad,” a senior official of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, told AFP.

He said the girl had Down's Syndrome — a condition which causes various degrees of learning difficulties — and disputed the age given by police.

“She was just 11 to 12 years old,” he said, adding his organisation wanted the hugely sensitive case resolved “amicably”.

The Women's Action Forum (WAF), a leading Pakistani organisation fighting for the rights of women, condemned Riftaa's arrest.

Spokeswoman Tahira Abdullah demanded her immediate release and expressed outrage at the “total inhumanity” of the men who lodged the case with police.

Police should have dealt with the case under the Juvenile Justice System, she said, accusing police of not allowing lawyers or civil society representatives to visit the girl.

Punjab governor Salman Taseer was assassinated in January 2011 and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti two months later for their opposition to the blasphemy law.

They had taken up the plight of a Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy in late 2010. She remains in prison.

Last month, a Pakistani mob snatched a mentally unstable man from a village police station and beat him to death in central Punjab province after he allegedly burned pages from a Quran.

Comments (79) Closed

Cyrus Howell
Aug 20, 2012 12:59pm
It's true.
Cyrus Howell
Aug 20, 2012 12:58pm
God will take suo moto action if this child is executed. Do not take the risk.
Aug 20, 2012 02:52pm
Beautiful!! Everyone wants to get power. All these leaders sit on TV and talk BIG. None of the party has a stance of minorities rights. I'll tell you one thing my freind Christains are more faithful and loyal to Pakitsan than these soo called muslim Pakistani's are. No one in Pakistan has courage to take stance on protecting minorities rights.
Aug 20, 2012 01:09pm
As far as the blasphemy law is concerned, i think there should be some proper criterion for checking that whether someone had committed the act of insulting or lack of reverence for religious deity. Otherwise its for the protection of our religion and should be continued. We don't care what other people in other nations have done with their Gods or religions. But its for protection of Islam. Again i say is that blasphemy law should have some criterion to make judgements on its ground principles. Nobody will tolerated who will commit such guilt with solid evidence.
Aug 20, 2012 09:59am
Sensible move from president !!!
Mohammad Ali
Aug 20, 2012 10:07am
when you know the law is being misused, then why should not it be scrapped? when you strongly believe in God then let Him decide the girl's fate..but NO you will not do that because you want paradise in return for killing. IS OUR GOD CAN NOT PROTECT HIS BOOK? IF HE CAN THEN LET HIM DECIDE..She is God's creature, killing His creature is big sin compared to Quran's desecration..because Allah says he will protect the Quran, not you Muslims..
sparky singh
Aug 20, 2012 10:53am
The people who want the girl prosecuted are just taking advantage of the rules of logic the masses willingly chose to bend and ignore and continue to do so. Religion even with the best of intentions is not as harmless as it seems if it over rides common sense.
Aug 20, 2012 10:53am
Does it happen anywhere apart from Pakistan? O Lord have mercy on them, for they are ignorant! Sorry for Pakistan! For not being able to come out of its own cocoon; for not being able to deprive its masses of practicing their self-gained power to judge the innocent, who has not come of age yet and forced to expose herself along with the family to a virus with no cure. Sorry for the mob enjoying limitless liberty on the cost of the blood of the innocent and voiceless… burning houses… looting the poor, suppressing and exploiting them…having caused chaos and unrest but themselves at large with no fears inside.
sparky singh
Aug 20, 2012 09:48am
what kind of a blasphemy laws let off scot-free people who in spite of having sane minds want to prosecute an 11 year old for burning a book?
Aug 20, 2012 02:31pm
congratulation to Dawn , your news spread all over the world , bringing shame to all muslims and pakistani living in pakistan and abroad, surely u will call it great work . i hope u will give the coverage to the news when the girl will be free (Inshallah) and send it to everyone in the world
Aug 20, 2012 02:19pm
Do people in Pakistan also live in caves? It seems their behaviour is out of an ancient era of humanity. Cave people?
Aug 20, 2012 02:19pm
Are you are sure that the 11 year old girl has really done something blasphemous? what evidence you have? These are personal bias and hate which is making all these cases. No investigation is undertaken by the police. Whenever few people accuse someone police just arrests them without any verification. Not following the teaching of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the real blasphemy and most of the Paksitanis are doing this on daily basis.
Concerned Netizen
Aug 20, 2012 02:10pm
So according to you Islam is so weak that it requires human protection? Great!
Aug 20, 2012 01:56pm
Islam today is being destroyed from the inside out, not the other way around.
Aug 20, 2012 01:56pm
No tolerance for intolerance. Civilization will always win over savagery. When will Pakistan stop this insanity and move forward instead of backward? Once again, the civilized world watches in complete disbelief as Pakistan humiliates itself on the world stage.
Aug 20, 2012 01:53pm
If your values are so easily offended that you have to resort to murder, then you have no values. The values of each person, community and religion must come from the heart not the tip of a buthcer's knife.
Aug 20, 2012 01:52pm
Long live Zardari.
Aug 20, 2012 01:38pm
I think all the educated class should wake up and protect Pakistan from slipping into a situation that exist in Afghanistan. Like thieves that are caught by locals and given terrible beating, these molvis who are creating this kind of nuisance in our society should also be given examplery punishments. They need to be taught a lesson that this country is not their personal property in which they can just do what ever they please. If they incite the public, the very public should grab and backfire all the harm at them that they try to inflict on another person.
Aug 20, 2012 01:14pm
The arrest of the girl is just ridiculous. Even if she is not a down syndrome child means mentally challenged, she is too young to be treated as a culprit. May Allah (swt) guide us to do justice in all affairs. Aamen.
T Javed
Aug 20, 2012 01:15pm
I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. This incident shows that Pakistan is an intolerent primative and unsophisticated country that is two to three hundred yaers behind times.
Anand Jha
Aug 20, 2012 12:38pm
Why is Pakistan celebrating Independence day when Pakistani people are still seeking Independence?, only difference is the enemy has changed it's face from British Master to Arabic Mafia of Islamic Clerics, They don't want people to be educated apart from their version of Islam and they have succeeded in capturing their mind. Learn from Turkey who were liberated from this religious Arabic mafia and is the only Muslim Country in the world where they have got an evolved way of Islamic life. I will only request these illiterate people to imagine themselves being in the position where this poor girl is and try to feel the insecurity and pain.Shame on you.
jamil awan
Aug 20, 2012 12:31pm
islam can not be forced or imposed on people, it's even against Islam!! It's sad that pakistan was formed on secular bases by his founder and now its going to be a failed state because of false religious and not true faith. Many pakistanis are living in west and they have freedom of religion, they can obtain easily the citizenship, Pakistan receive their remittence but their county of origin the people are killing the innocent Cristian and now even a handicap teenager and some months ago they killed a Faqir. We majority of subcontinent feel really l bad, it's not like many pakistani have migrated to saudi Arabia and Gulf states where they don't have any right and thy are called "MISKEEN" why these countries don't apply the strict sharia laws in their own land.
Aug 20, 2012 12:24pm
This chief justice only takes suo moto against the present government in any way possible.
Aug 20, 2012 12:11pm
The Chief Justice should take notice of that. Right to Life is guaranteed by our Constitution. The Chief Justice should take note where the Human Rights are being violated in the private sphere not merely when the State is violating them. Any law which permits the taking away of life in this way should be held against the Constitution and Islam.
Aug 20, 2012 12:07pm
Can you imagine the trauma of an 11 year old girl as an aftermath of imprisonment for apparently committing no crime (from the perspective of a decent judiciary system, which Pakistan lacks)? People has the reason for being islamophobic.
Aug 20, 2012 12:05pm
We do not have anti-blasphemy laws in the West because we still believe in free speech. I am a Catholic and Christianity gets heavily criticised and defamed each and every day on t.v, radio, newspapers, on the street etc. I don't particularly like it, but I would be the first to defend people's rights to their opinions. As for religious books, they are but pieces of paper. Religious belief dwells within you and cannot be shaken by the criticism of others or the disposal (deliberate or otherwise) of religious tracts. This poor girl should be released immediately and those ringleaders who called for her to be punished should be arrested for incitement. It is precisely because of medieval behaviour like this that some in the West indulge in what you describe as "Islam bashing"
Aug 20, 2012 01:10pm
But it is responsibility of people of other religions to respect our values esp when Muslim don't do anything blasphemous for their religiion. Long live blasphemy law.
Aug 20, 2012 12:02pm
Dear Brother! am Pakistani christian but true Pakistani and we r not living in europe and america we even dont think about any wrong action againt blasphamy law. Really we are not againt this law we are also against those people who misuse this. Shahbaz Bhatti and some human rights org are saying since long to amend this law not asking for removing. If this law amended than people will come front who are misusing this, these type of people defaming Pakistan and Islam. In last am totally agreed with your comments. God Bless U. with Regards - ABC
Aug 20, 2012 11:48am
The poor girl deserves sympathy and care and not punishment
Aug 20, 2012 11:44am
wake up! and call all your fellow country men back from the west for they live in the land of impure and non believers! why don't you have them back on priority?
Aug 20, 2012 12:10pm
sorry Fazal but you are very much misinformed. In the west, the freedom is for all religions If you think its Islam bashing, then trust me, people are most sensitive not to do that. Watch their sitcoms and shows and you'll relise people makng fun of their own religion and people. Please stop listening to what you are told by some maulvis
Aug 20, 2012 10:38am
Knowing the Pakistani mob mentality , this girl in question will be killed,her days are numbered, accept the fact that there is no Compassion, rose petals will be showered on the person who will murder her, crowds will cheer him as a hero,as a savior of Islam, the media and Human rights guys will condemn the incident , many will post their anger here and life will go on, again after few months we shall reading similar news, again and again , no wonder Islam is loosing respect and followers
Aug 21, 2012 02:00pm
Shame on you Mohsin! If I was the editor of Dawn I would put this up as the top Headline in ALL CAPS, with a picture of the poor 11 year old disable girld being harrassed by 100s of crazy bearded full grown men... Shame on you and shame on everyone for letting this happen.
Aug 22, 2012 12:00pm
Call them senseless?. These devils in human skin? The height of human brutality and there are people to listen to their sermons.
Aug 22, 2012 02:51pm
if the girl can not even fend herself then how did she recognized the Qur'an and burnt it. This news must be either wrong or the girl must not be a patient with syndrome. Islam is not weak but secular minded Muslims have gone weak. Still I request to set the girl free so that other with down syndromes burn Qur'an again with more courage.
Aug 27, 2012 08:46am
yes. they memorize those verses from childhood.. you can understand how much of logic they can use.. evey logic they use is based on those medieval texts!
Cyrus Howell
Aug 20, 2012 12:50pm
Aug 20, 2012 06:58am
What s sad state of affairs..This CHILD should be released immediately...enough with this draconian blasphemy law, this needs to be amended at once. We as a society should stand against this outrage.
Aug 20, 2012 07:00am
It's too terrible even for words
Aug 20, 2012 07:06am
These things make me wonder have we really lost it?! No law, no Government writ and worst of all no sanity left in us as people!
AAK (usa)
Aug 20, 2012 07:19am
Cursed was the day when Ziaul Haq introduced sharia courts, encouraged mullahism- result is total religious intolerance.
Mir Dost
Aug 20, 2012 07:24am
Where are you other political parties, PML (N) PTI, JUI (F) and others and your stance on protection of minorities rights? or just your parties play politics on Supreme court shoulders?
Aug 20, 2012 07:41am
Let the girl go!
Aug 20, 2012 08:00am
Problem is not in the law itself but with those who misuse it. I am strongly in favour of blasphemy law because I do not want the situation in west being replicated over here where anyone can say anything about Islam and get away with it. Of course this liberty in west is only for Islam bashing and not for other religions.. Having said that I would love to see the abuser of the law in Pakistan severely punished and made a worthy example out of.
Dr Mazhar
Aug 20, 2012 08:06am
These maulvies are senseless, they are defaming Pakistan and Islam. They don't come on streets when their own brothers kill innocent people in sectarian violence. What they will achieve with killing of an innocent girl. I request Pakistanis to please stand against these terrorist maulvies.
Aug 20, 2012 08:28am
She has Down Syndrome! Is very very unlikely to have been able to read what was written on the paper. And after being held in custody for 14 days is probably terrified. If someone with no learning disability, who was able to understand what they had done had been found burning the Koran or the bible for that matter, then yes, they should be punished for breaking the law, but not someone like her.
Aug 20, 2012 08:56am
Jesus Christ's pictures on popcorns, Hindu Goddesses on beers. How much more do you expect the West and the " other" to be tolerant? No one has gone and killed any body for insulting Ganges. ( Fox's Glenn Beck) Why do you think only Islam is being targetted? This is called mental illness and its name is " PARANOIA" neither God nor Islam need and protection for like of you.
Aug 20, 2012 09:20am
Bravo - rather than focus on the fact that a mob of Pakistanis has had a young girl arrested, forced a community hundreds strong to leave their homes and that you have a blasphemy law that needs to be struck down you have a dig at the 'West.' Sadly it is the knee jerk response of all too many Pakistanis - something wrong in Pakistan lash out at the evil West rather than look within. People like you are destroying Pakistan. I hope that this child and her family remain safe. End the blasphemy law once and for all.
sparky singh
Aug 20, 2012 09:36am
Even if Pakistan must have blasphemy laws to appease the mullahs then why can't it at least say that its 'willful' harm to sanctity of Islam that is punishable?
Aug 20, 2012 09:43am
How come our chief justice is not taking suo moto action on this case, perhaps he does not courage to take action on a really serious issue. May be Chief Justice considers this law and the manner in which it is used totally in line with the constitution.
Aug 20, 2012 03:32pm
first of all need to reconsider blasphemy law ............???????????
Aug 20, 2012 03:33pm
blasphemy law in Pakistan is usually misused. please stand against it. i think we must use our common sense that if and only if accused accept his act in the court then he/she can be punished otherwise it is illogical to arrest and punish someone when he/she is shouting that nothing such has occurred.
Aug 20, 2012 03:51pm
These molvis are the destroyers of pakistan.They keep mum when they are asked to explain thier point of view on Taliban.The senseless electronic media look also confused.The illitrate crowd of 17 CRORES is mindlessly following what these uneducated molvis are preaching.How often these molvis raise their voice against poverty,lack of education,rampant corruption in pakistan.They consider killing a mentally compromised girl an easiest way to please the God.
Aug 20, 2012 04:16pm
It is this obsession for Islam why most muslims are poor and illiterate.
Murtuza Babrawala
Aug 20, 2012 05:00pm
Total elimination of all religious extremism is the first major step towards Pakistan salvation.
Omer Shahid
Aug 20, 2012 05:21pm
it's little things like these that makes me NOT hate The President completely.At least he is more humane than these blood thirsty mullas.
Aug 21, 2012 11:17am
spot on mate... well said.
Aug 20, 2012 05:59pm
I am saddened that pakistan loosing all credibility for abandoning Mr Jinnah's principles on which the nation was founded.Zia changed the whole equation to suit him and put mullahs in charge.Democracy is dead in Pakistan fear rules.
Aug 20, 2012 06:02pm
Where is Imran Khan on this. Scared like the rest of us. Or worse....
asha mary mathew
Aug 20, 2012 06:28pm
I do not understand on what basis the Pakis are demanding human rights and civil liberties in Christian countries when they are hunting down Hindoos and Christians
Aug 20, 2012 06:35pm
i couldn't agree more....
h. harris
Aug 20, 2012 06:48pm
Wrong, the problem is the law. The law that allows killing for insulting Islam and the country and constitution that permits it. ( derogatory remarks towards any religion are a bad taste however not a crime). Pakistanis regularly defame other religions that is not considered a crime but defamation of Islam is punishable by death. What a civilized country!
Aug 20, 2012 08:24pm
Thank you Zia-ul-Haq. Your legacy lives on.
Aug 20, 2012 08:57pm
You must be living in cacoon, The Pope being criticized and jokes being made about him on TV. Have you not heard about movies and plays that show Jesus in bad light. Wake up, its good for you.
Amir Saeed
Aug 20, 2012 08:59pm
I appeal to the followers of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), whom Allah procalimed the Mercy for all the Worlds, to raise their voice in support of a mentally challenged child and save her from the psychosis that has gripped our society. Is Islam so week(Nauzu biAllah) that it feels threatened by the actions(alleged) of a wretched, helpless child who cannot even fend for herself?
Aug 20, 2012 08:59pm
Well said.
Aug 20, 2012 09:21pm
The Chief Justice doesnt care for the Minorities ... So also Imran Khan - These people only want Power at any cost.
Praful R Shah
Aug 20, 2012 09:44pm
Is Pakistan is 21st century? Why the Pakistani society so intolerant to other religions? Unless Pakistan wants to live alone there will be reactions. Pretty soon it will be difficult for Pakistan conduct relations with other nations.
Aug 20, 2012 09:49pm
Shame !
Aug 20, 2012 11:00pm
What I understand is that one can be punished not only for burning Quran but also hanged for burning any other book with verses from Quran. what a ridiculous situation and a ridiculous law and I pity the Pakistanis for their common sense.
Aug 20, 2012 11:30pm
Prophet Mohammad experienced blasphemy and every kind of maltreatment in Mecca for 10 years in Person yet forgave everyone at the fall of Mecca. Now people claiming to be his followers are persecuting and executing people for slightest mistakes. If a law can be abused so easily, then it's not a good law. It was drafted by humans; not written in Quran or Hadith. It needs to be either completely redrafted or repealed. In Quran Allah says killing a (innocent) human being is like killing whole humanity. Even if one single innocent person gets wrongfully condemned and executed, that is one too many. However, the problem is bigger than the law itself. Even without the law, people in Pakistan would react in the same animalistic manner as they are right now. That is the culture (or lack thereof) of the Pakistani society. No difference of any kind is tolerated; ethnic, religious or any other kind.
Aug 21, 2012 12:24am
Wake Up!!! Your society is rapidly descending towards becoming the most barbaric of all societies this earth has ever encountered.
Aug 21, 2012 12:56am
Why "shame on all muslim andd pakistanis" so if a muslim does a bad thing all muslims shoul apologies. Does same apply to other religious or other groups of people?
Aug 21, 2012 12:59am
Not to an eleven year old child - for heavens sake. Have some fear of God against your own savagery.
Aug 21, 2012 01:31am
You are 100 percent correct. This so called religious mullah has nothing better to do. We should teach peace not hatred.
Aug 21, 2012 01:48am
maulvis are strong because we are week. Enough is enough.when will we stand against this jahalat and exploitation in the name of islam.i love my religion and feel like a ransomed prisoner.God help our country.
Aug 21, 2012 02:09am
You are blaming dawn for bringing this news forward. People like you should be ashamed of themselves
Muhammad Farooq
Aug 21, 2012 03:03am
Since blasphemy law is so easily manipulated, there should be necessary changes, so when registering a crime under this act, the police station is required to seek approval from IG level. Something important needs to be done to prevent misuse of the law.
Mir Dost
Aug 21, 2012 03:25am
I have no idea about other countries and never saw this in Thailand where I am pursuing my studies. It's business in Pakistan where parties are political are formed overnight with some make and break policy involved by agencies of the state. This has always has happened when a civilian party has enjoyed power and than agencies has tries to break them up for re-gaining power. Precised, it is common in Pakistan