Rimsha Masih freed on bail in Pakistan but ordeal far from over

Originally published in barnabasaid

Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl detained for blasphemy in Pakistan, has been freed on bail but remains “at grave risk”; meanwhile attacks on vulnerable young Christian girls in the country continue.

The 14-year-old with Down’s syndrome was granted bail on Friday (7 September) by a court in Islamabad after three weeks in a high-security prison. Amid fears that Islamic hard-liners would try to attack Rimsha, she was bundled, head covered, into a helicopter as heavily armed police stood guard. She was flown to a secure location to be reunited with her family.

Rimsha is the first person accused of blasphemy in Pakistan to be granted bail; it is not a bailable offence, but the judge was swayed by pleas over her juvenile status and the insistence of the investigating officer that the Christian girl had been framed. Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti is alleged to have planted evidence on her to “get rid of Christians” from Maherabad.

But Rimsha’s terrible ordeal is far from over. The charges against her have not been dropped, and it has not yet been decided if she will have to stand trial. Even if she is cleared, the youngster will remain vulnerable to attack by Muslim extremists; people who have been accused of blasphemy have been killed by vigilantes following their release. She may have to remain under armed guard for the rest of her life.

Raja Ikram, one of the lawyers defending Rimsha, said:

She is at grave risk in the sense that the people who managed this whole drama and fabricated the evidence against her most certainly wish her harm.

The case has sparked widespread condemnation of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and calls for them to be reformed. But most analysts consider it highly unlikely that there will be any change, leaving Christians open to further malicious and devastating accusations.

Rimsha’s plight has also drawn attention to the abuse of Christians in Pakistan, but this also continues unabated.

One particularly savage incident, which happened on 14 August, involved the gang-rape and murder of a 12-year-old Christian girl, Muqadas Kainat, by five Muslim men in a field.

In another case, a ten-year-old Christian girl was raped by a 60-year-old Muslim man on 25 August. He lured the youngster to his home in Faisalabad, where he brutally assaulted her.

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