By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani court ordered the “release on bail” of a young Christian Pakistani girl, who was detained for blasphemy against Islam, a well-informed source and advocacy leader told BosNewsLife Friday, September 7.
Last month’s detention of 14-year-old Rimsha Masih in a prison near Islamabad raised an international outcry because of her age and reports she is mentally impaired.
“The [Islamabad] court set the bail of one million Pakistani rupees ($10,600)” said Farrukh H. Saif, executive director of Pakistan-based rights group World Vision In Progress (WVIP). “It will be paid by the lawyer,” he added as her family lives in poverty.
Tables already turned earlier this week when an imam who accused the girl of burning pages of Koran verses, was himself detained on charges of blasphemy, which can carry the death sentence.
Imam Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chisht allegedly stashed Koranic papers in the girl‘s bag to ensure her conviction and push out Christians from the area, charges he strongly denied.
The Koran is deemed a holy book by Muslims.
‘GOD FREED HER’
“I am happy that at least the girl is save,” added Saif, whose group has been closely involved in the case. “She is our daughter and we are very happy that God has freed her from the jail,” he said.
The case also underscored concerns over thousands of children who rights activists say are languishing in Pakistani jails, often without proper legal representation, or just forgotten by what critics view as a corrupt and bureaucratic judicial system.
Saif said she is not expected to return to the same impoverished district of Islamabad where she grew up amid security concerns.
He said she will be “shifted” to another part of Pakistan.
Saif stressed that about 300 Christian families are still afraid to return to their homes in the same slum area where the girl lived, after several homes were burned and at least one church was damaged there.
“There is not yet a specific time for their return,” said Saif, whose organization provides food and other supplies to several hundred Christians from Islamabad’s colony of Meherabadi.
“We found that five houses were burned and one church was destroyed,” he told BosNewsLife earlier adding that “Bibles [have been torn] to pieces and a [church] cross is broken.”
Last month in the southern city of Karachi the Catholic St. Matthew’s Church was also attacked by suspected Islamic militants who reportedly shot at the building, but there were no reports of injuries, according to rights activists.
European Union officials have expressed concern about the situation and urged Pakistan to tackle the controversial blasphemy laws and ease tensions in the area.
Christians comprise less than five percent of Pakistan’s mostly Muslim population of 180 million people.
(This is a developing Breaking News story; stay with BosNewsLife for more updates).