Sacred and profane

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published: September 8, 2012 12:55:52 am

Sacred and profane

IN MID-AUGUST,Rimsha Masih,a girl living on the outskirts of Islamabad,made news in Pakistan’s papers. Last week,she made headlines. Her claim to fame: an alleged act of blasphemy committed by desecrating a Noorani Qaida,a beginner’s prayer book containing Quranic verses. Rimsha is a Christian and suffers from Down’s Syndrome. After weeks in jail,she was released on bail on September 7. This case comes soon after the reported migration of Hindus from Pakistan to India.

Rimsha was mobbed by an angry crowd when a half-burnt Noorani Qaida was found in her possession. A local cleric,Khalid Jadoon Chishti,“saved” her from the angry mob and handed her over to the police,who kept her in custody for almost three weeks. Her age was contested,with a court-appointed medical board putting her at 13-14 years,while commenting that her mental age didn’t appear to match her biological age. Her family stated she was uneducated and born with Down’s Syndrome. Human rights activists and Pakistan’s minorities came out in support of Rimsha,but more surprisingly,so did the head of the All Pakistan Ulema Council,Pakistan’s leading body of Muslim clerics. Tahir Ashrafi demanded Rimsha’s case be handled fairly and impartially and argued that those demanding punishment were following the “law of the jungle”.

Late last week,Chishti’s deputy alleged that he had planted the pages in Rimsha’s bag. The Express Tribune on September 2 reported: “Police have arrested Khalid Jadoon Chishti on charges of fabricating evidence,which he had used to accuse Rimsha Masih of committing blasphemy… Hafiz Muhammad Zubair,who witnessed Jadoon adding pages of the Quran,recorded a statement with the Rawalpindi magistrate on Saturday. According to Zubair’s account… some people handed burnt pages to the prayer leader… After a little while,Chishti added additional pages of the Quran to the pile. Zubair,in his statement,added that three other people present with him in the mosque asked Chishti why he was adding documents to the pile of burnt paper,to which the prayer leader said that such an act was necessary to strengthen their case.” On Friday afternoon,Dawn’s website reported Rimsha was granted bail against Rs 10 lakh.

Court martial

PAKISTAN’S anti-graft body broke the news of the reinstatement of three retired army generals after they were found complicit in a huge scam. The News reported on September 7: “The National Accountability Bureau on Thursday revealed to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the GHQ had re-entered into active service three retired generals involved in the mega billion National Logistic Cell (NLC) scam to initiate their court martial… It is to be mentioned here that the audit department had reported to the PAC that NLC had obtained Rs 4.3 billion [in loans from banks between 2004 and 2008 for investment in volatile bourses and suffered Rs1.84 billion losses. Moreover,NLC was also paying Rs 2.7 million per day as markup on loans illegally obtained to invest in the stock market. The NAB official Thursday told PAC that Chairman NAB had held three meetings with the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on the issue of the NLC probe.” The GHQ would probe the army generals while NAB would probe the civilians involved. It has also been reported the GHQ was initially uncooperative. The ice broke when NAB’s head,a retired navy admiral intervened.

Brush with diversity

WHEN Pakistan’s treatment of religious minorities is under the scanner,its national population register,National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA),released a survey about its religious diversity. The Express Tribune reported on 2: “Pakistan is not as monolithically Islamic as popular perceptions would have you believe… According to the data… over 2.9 million adult Pakistanis belong to seven different faiths other than Islam…” According to NADRA,Pakistan has 1.4 million Hindus; 1.27 million Christians; 125,681 Ahmadis; over 33,000 of the Baha’i faith; 6,146 Sikhs; over 4,000 Parsis; and around 1,500 Buddhists.

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