A Pakistani girl (C) recites verses from the Quran while attending her daily Islamic school in Islamabad. There is a growing debate over religious intolerance in Pakistan. AP photo
Pakistan’s president yesterday called on officials to explain the arrest on blasphemy charges of a Christian girl with Down’s Syndrome who allegedly burnt pages inscribed with verses from the Quran.
There is a growing debate about religious intolerance in Pakistan, where strict anti-blasphemy laws make defaming Islam or desecrating the Quran punishable by death.
Police said the girl, Rimsha, was arrested in a Christian slum of the capital last week and remanded in custody for 14 days after a furious Muslim mob demanded she be punished. A police official, speaking to Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity, said the girl was in her teens. Activists say she is 11 years old.
Some reports suggested the girl had been burning papers collected from the rubbish for cooking
when someone entered her house and accused the family of burning pages inscribed with verses from the Quran.
Muslim anger over the alleged incident forced Christians to flee the Mehrabad slum, home to hundreds of Christians 20 minutes’ drive from Western embassies. President Asif Ali Zardari took “serious note” of the arrest and called on the Interior Ministry to submit a report on the case, state media said.
Mobile network suspended
ISLAMABAD – Agence France-Presse
Pakistan shut down mobile phone networks overnight in major cities to prevent Taliban
and al-Qaeda attacks as celebrations began for the biggest Muslim festival of the year.
The draconian security measure kicked in late Aug. 19, at a time when millions ordinarily telephone friends and relatives with greetings for Eid al-Fitr. Networks were working again yesterday mid-morning. Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan’s two largest cities, and the troubled city of Quetta, in the insurgency-torn province of Baluchistan, were among the places where networks were suspended. Authorities feared that mobile phones could be used to coordinate attacks or trigger a remote-controlled bomb.