ASIA NEWS REPORT
The High Court in Islamabad delays the trial before
deciding whether to drop the blasphemy charges or not. The girl's lawyers want
the case thrown out of court. In Karachi, a mob of extremists attack St Francis
Catholic Church. In Faisalabad, Christians praying for Malala Yousafzai come
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The High Court in Islamabad extended to 14 November
the restraining order against the trial of Rimsha Masih, a mentally challenged
Christian girl charged with blasphemy. The ruling came at a hearing on a
petition filed by the accused girl's lawyers to quash the First Information
Report (FIR) registered against her on the ground that the charges are false and
baseless. Meanwhile, anti-Christian violence continues as attacks are reported
against Karachi's St Francis Catholic Church and Faisalabad's Bawa Chak
At the end of the hearing, the court extended the restraining order until 14
November, directing counsels to conclude their arguments at the upcoming
hearing. In his remarks, one of the defence lawyers reiterated his client's
demand for dismissal of the case since there was no offence and that Rimsha
should be released.
He added that the imam at the Jaffer Mosque, Khalid Jadoon Chishti,
fabricated the story in order to force out minority Christians from their homes
and seize their assets, and that if anyone committed blasphemy, it was the imam
according to the testimony of three witnesses, who however later retracted.
The irony is that the imam who deliberately desecrated the Qur'an is free on
bail. His lawyers are trying to delay proceedings. Prosecutors in the case have
indicated that they are not planning to try the imam on blasphemy charges, which
goes to show, critics point out, of how the 'black law' is used arbitrarily
against minorities, political adversaries, and business competitors.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Christians and their places of worship are still
targeted. On 12 October, a mob of hundreds attacked St Francis Catholic Church
in Karachi. The building suffered external damage but the attackers were not
able to get inside. Worshippers later spoke about the fright they experienced as
the local bishop, Mgr Joseph Coutts, tried to lessen their fear by organising
support rallies and slamming the extremists who attacked.
A second incident was reported last Sunday in Faisalabad. At 11 am, Muslim
fanatics attacked the Bawa Chak Presbyterian Church. The attack was sparked by
an incident in which a 26-year-old Muslim man was accidentally struck by a
cricket ball during a match by Christian teenagers.
The altercation that followed led to a full blown attack by a mob of Muslims
wielding sticks, stones and guns against the local Presbyterian church during
Sunday mass. Some children and women were injured during the assault. Most
residents of the area locked themselves in their homes to avoid further
Speaking to AsiaNews, Christian activist and lawmaker Joel
Aamir Sahotra said the whole affair was very sad since the attack against the
church occurred during a special Mass for Malala Yousafzai, the Muslim girl
wounded by the Taliban who is now recovering in a British hospital. This token
of solidarity was for all Muslims, who in response attack minorities.
For Fr Nisar Barkat, director of the National Commission for Justice and
Peace in Faisalabad, "violence has penetrated people's minds because of biased
teachings" in mosques by extremist imams and religious leaders. For this reason,
he wants the government to enforce the law and promote peace and harmony.
(Shafique Khokhar contributed to the article.)
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