Christian families flee capital

ISLAMABAD - Legal experts and human rights activists have slammed the arrest of a handicapped minor Christian girl Rifta Masih under blasphemy law.

By Afzal Khan

Published: Wed 22 Aug 2012, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:52 AM

The incident has caused panic among members of Christian community in the capital many of whom reportedly fled their homes for fear of a backlash.

According to the Centre for Law and Justice, at least 200 to 300 Christian families from Meharabadi Jaffar, Sector G-12, Islamabad, have fled after Rifta was accused of blasphemy.

Rifta Masih — who suffers from Down’s Syndrome — was jailed by the police in Meharabadi village, near Islamabad, on Saturday after being severely beaten up by locals, for allegedly burning pages inscribed with verses from Holy Quran.

After the issue was highlighted in the media, Islamabad police also registered a case against the imam of the local mosque of Meharabadi area allegedly for instigating locals to set the minor girl on fire.

“Investigation is under way and the authenticity of the incident, age of the girl and her mental condition are being determined,” said the police station house officer (SHO) Qasim Niazi.

The official revealed that a new FIR has been registered against the cleric and 175 others who he claimed have approached the police with a demand to hand over the Christian girl so she could be set on fire publicly at the main square of the area.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti told reporters that Rifta would be medically examined. Bhatti said that he has also taken up the issue with religious scholars of different sects, who, after Eid Al Fitr, will determine whether Rifta’s act was deliberate or unintentional, since she is only a child.

SHO Niazi said that if a timely operation was not conducted, locals could have burnt the Christians of the area.

The Human Rights Cell of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has expressed concern over the detention of the Christian girl. It proposed that in any such event, law must allow leadership of religious communities and district administration to jointly probe the matter before the registration of a complaint and arrest.

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