13-Year-Old Pakistani Girl May Not Face Death Penalty for Blasphemy After AllS

In what the Guardian is describing as an "extraordinary" reversal in the case of a young Christian girl facing a death sentence for blasphemy, Pakistani police have arrested a mullah named Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti on the suspicion that he added pages of the Qu'ran to charred material the girl was carrying in order to strengthen the blasphemy case against her.

13-year-old Rimsha Masih has been languishing in jail for two weeks ever since being arrested in her Islamabad neighborhood for allegedly burning the Qu'ran, which is an extremely serious crime punishable by death. Rimsha's lawyers have so far insisted that she didn't commit any crime, and that, anyway, she should be tried as a juvenile because she's only 13-years-old and has Down's syndrome, which would, they argue, prevent her from knowingly committing such an act of blasphemy. However, with Chishti's arrest Saturday night, Rimsha could soon be mercifully exonerated. Two of Chishti's colleagues gave Pakistani police statements that Chishti added pages of the Qu'ran to charred items that Rimsha was carrying. If the statements prove true, the tables would turn dramatically on Chishti, who would face a series of blasphemy charges all his own.

Before his arrest, Chishti had been outspoken in his disdain for the hundreds of Christian families living in his Islamabad neighborhood, openly complaining on national television about how they "disturbed" Muslim residents. Maulvi Zubair, one of Chishti's assistants at a mosque near Rimsha's home, claims that Chishti was trying to rid the area of Christians by implicating Rimsha in a blasphemy crime. After Rimsha's arrest, tensions reach a boiling point, with Muslim demonstrations forcing many Christian residents to leave the area.

The Guardian further notes that Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which have come under recent scrutiny, "have been widely abused as a powerful way to settle scores and disputes." Hopefully, Chishti's sudden change of fortune will force Pakistan to temper blasphemy laws that would see a 13-year-old girl with Down's syndrome facing the death penalty for burning paper, but people pull some outrageous stunts in the name of religion.

Pakistani mullah ‘planted charred texts' on girl accused of blasphemy [Guardian]