ISLAMABAD – President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered his Interior Ministry to check whether local authorities misused Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law in the recent arrest of a young Christian girl accused of desecrating pages from the Quran.
The case of Ramsha, an 11-year-old girl from an impoverished section of Islamabad, has again cast a spotlight on Pakistan’s struggles with intolerance and with the application of its blasphemy law, which makes it a crime to utter any derogatory remarks or to insult in any way the prophet Muhammad, the Quran or the faith of Islam.
The law is often exploited as a means to settle scores against adversaries or persecute minorities, particularly Christians and Ahmadis, members of a Muslim sect viewed by most Pakistanis as traitors to Islam because they revere another prophet in addition to Muhammad.
Ramsha, whose last name was not given by authorities, was accused of burning pages from the Quran on Thursday, though authorities are also investigating whether she was simply burning discarded papers she pulled from a trash bin as fuel for cooking, according to a statement released by Zardari’s office.
News of Ramsha’s alleged actions enraged neighbors, who attacked the girl’s sister and mother and set ablaze several Christian homes in the area, the statement said. Several Christian families fled the neighborhood, fearing further violence.