Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws Don't Protect Religious Harmony

Source:  www.assistnews.net

Date:  2012-12-02

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ISLAMABAD PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Islamabad's High Court (IHC) has dismissed blasphemy charges against Rimsha, a Christian teenage girl whose case prompted international outrage.

The dismissal occurred on Nov. 20.

In an email received by the ASSIST News Service, Shamim Masih, a Christian rights activist and freelance journalist, wrote that the High Court found the accusations against her were legally unsound, according to Abdul Hameed Rana, one of the Rimsha's lawyers. She is now free.

Masih said with the case being dismissed, it still remains unclear what kind of life she might be able to have, given the accusations she faced.

International NGOs in the United States, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom have offered the teenager and her family a home outside Pakistan, a family representative said.

Masih said she spoke to CNN in Sept. from an undisclosed location after she was released on bail and said, "I'm scared. I'm afraid of anyone who might kill us."

Masih said Rimsha denied that she defiled the Quran. She said she was happy to be with her family, but still feared for her life.

Masih said national and international Christians welcomed the court's ruling, made under considerable pressure and international scrutiny.

There have been about 1,400 blasphemy cases since the laws were first enacted in 1986, according to Human Rights Watch.

Masih said Human Rights Watch has reported there are more than 15 cases of people on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan, and 52 have been killed while facing trial for the charge, according to the organization.

Masih reported that Wilson Chaudhery, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said that while Pakistani Christians in the UK welcomed the Court verdict in Rimsha's case, they are still concerned about other individuals.

Chaudhery said he hopes the Pakistani government will be fair to others who are facing the same or similar charges.

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