Paul-Bhatti-670
Minister for National Harmony Paul Bhatti. Bhatti is Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet minister. His brother and predecessor Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down last year for speaking out against the blasphemy law. —File Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The arrest of a Muslim cleric for tampering with evidence against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy will help stop the abuse of Pakistan’s strict laws on insulting Islam, a cabinet minister said.

The young girl, Rimsha Masih, has been in custody for nearly three weeks after she was accused of burning pages containing verses from the Quran in a case that has prompted worldwide concern.

The affair took an unexpected twist on Saturday when the imam who first gave police evidence against her was accused by his deputy of adding pages from the Quran to the burnt papers taken from Rimsha.

Activists say the legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas, and even unproven allegations can prompt a violent public response – in July a mob stormed a police station in central Pakistan to seize and lynch a mentally unstable man accused of burning the Quran.

But it is rare to see anyone investigated for making a false allegation or interfering with evidence of blasphemy.

“It is a good omen. The deputy imam has revealed the truth and it will be helpful to deal with the future blasphemy cases,” Paul Bhatti, the Minister for National Harmony told AFP in an interview on Monday.

“The disclosure about the tampering with the evidence will discourage future accusers to misuse this law.”

Bhatti is Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet minister. His brother and predecessor Shahbaz was gunned down last year for speaking out against the blasphemy law.

Rimsha, who is “uneducated” and has a mental age of less than 14 according to a medical report, will remain in a high-security prison until Friday at the earliest – by which time she will have spent 22 days in custody.

Judge Muhammad Azam Khan, who has repeatedly delayed bail proceedings for Rimsha, again adjourned the matter on Monday after the lawyer for her accuser asked for a stay to show solidarity with a provincial lawyers’ strike.

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Comments (13)

Shankar
September 4, 2012 12:29 pm
May god be with you!
Shaukat
September 4, 2012 5:31 pm
Please, please get rid of the blasphamy law altogether. If we don't get rid of this law it will be a disaster for the country. Even when people cursed Prophet on his face he would bless them. Let us follow his example.
syed
September 4, 2012 4:19 pm
Any ABUSE of laws which can cause death sentence to accused (INNOCENT) should be punishable by equal amount of punishment.
Cyrus Howell
September 4, 2012 5:10 pm
You cannot shame those people. They have no shame.
Lucky Star
September 4, 2012 5:25 pm
What these Mullahs care about disintegration country because they thrive on anarchy.
Samina
September 4, 2012 7:24 pm
Repeal the law altogether as neither Quran nor Sunnah endorses such a law, no room for argument period!
ram lakhani
September 4, 2012 6:36 pm
How this Law is misused...example...Hyderabad Sind A salesman go to a Doctor and give his Card having his name...Mohammad. Dr. was not interested...he put the card in Trash basket. Salesman reported under this Law that name with Mohammad was trashed and insulted it....Dr. was arrested and salesman was happy to have taken revenge under pretext.. When Mecca was under draught and people had no food...They started stealing...Under Law hand was to be cut to wrist. Umer the Caliph suspended the rule saying that the Govt who cannot provide food has no right punish as such...Intellect and prevailing conditions taken into account
G.A.
September 4, 2012 10:07 pm
It's hard to get rid of this with the religious right so entrenched in society. Only way is to punish a few of the accusers severely. Point is to discourage false accusations as its nearly impossible to get rid of this law which is a remnant of the British Raj.
MONAYEM CHOWDHURY
September 4, 2012 1:55 pm
Blasphemy law cannot coexist with freedom of speech. We should not nibble at the freedom of speech in the name of religion.
Nazli Siddiqui
September 4, 2012 1:49 pm
shame on those who are blocking justice and humantarian considerations. a nation disintegrates where there's no justice.
Eddied
September 4, 2012 2:06 pm
A young girl languishes in prison even after proof she is a minor and the judge leaves her their to make a political statement of solidarity with lawyers? Free her immediately and do the right thing instead of playing politics...
Gerry D'Cunha
September 4, 2012 2:15 pm
why is the judge using his delay tactics when the full evidence of the case is in front of him when the imam who first gave police evidence against her was accused by his deputy of adding pages from the Quran to the burnt papers taken from Rimsha. The imam should be given death sentence for the blasphemy he has committed to accuse the innocent christian girl. This will be a lesson learned for muslims in future to accuse any minorities on this issues.
Nature Lover
September 4, 2012 2:03 pm
Get rid of this law altogether. Why is at all required?
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