President Zardari of Pakistan has asked the interior ministry to investigate after a Christian girl with reported mental disabilities was jailed
for allegedly burning pages from the Koran.
The case has revived debate over Pakistan’s controversial anti-blasphemy laws.
The girl, named as Rifta in the national press, was remanded in custody and her parents moved to a secure location away from the family home near Islamabad after an angry Muslim mob reportedly demanded that she be punished.
Reports say the girl has Down’s Syndrome. One police source said she is a teenager; activists say she is 11 or 12.
A Muslim resident said:
“Worshippers heading for the mosque saw a girl holding material (said to be religious papers), in her hands. She threw it on the ground. A group of boys shouted what are you doing, and she ran home. Worshippers reported the matter to the police and she was arrested.”
Other Christian families fled the area, but a cleric from the mosque said they left of their own accord and were not threatened.
Critics say blasphemy laws are often used to settle petty disputes. Politicians arguing for reform have been assassinated.
Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission called the charge against the girl “preposterous and barbaric”.
A women’s rights group condemned what it called the “total inhumanity“of the men who complained to police.