Rimsha Masih, victim of a high profiile case in Pakistan who was accused of having committed blasphemy and was initially sentenced to death, now resides with her family in Canada. Blasphemy laws continue to be a hot-point of contention within Pakistan and the driving force behind continued criticism of the nation by international human rights and religious freedom advocates.
7/1/2013 Pakistan (World Watch Monitor) — Rimsha Masih, the teenage Pakistani girl who once faced the possibility of the death penalty because she was accused of insulting Islam, is living in Canada with her family, a Canadian religious-rights organization says.
Peter Bhatti, executive director of International Christian Voice, told World Watch Monitor on Saturday that Rimsha and her immediate family are settled in the Toronto area, with the permission of the Canadian government. They have been in Canada for about a month, he said.
Rimsha was arrested in August 2012 and accused of burning the pages of some Islamic texts. She was jailed after angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the sector of Islamabad where her family lived, according to press reports at the time. Her detention sparked international outcry about the application of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws, and prompted Pakistan President
Asif Ali Zardari to order an investigation of the case. She faced the prospect of being tried as an adult until the court ruled that she is a minor.
The case against Rimsha collapsed after police were informed the cleric of the mosque in Rimsha’s area had planted the burned pages on her. Pakistani courts eventually threw out the charges against the girl, citing a lack of evidence.
Bhatti led a delegation of International Christian Voice executives to an August meeting in Canada with Pakistan’s consul general to “express the feelings of Pakistani Canadian Christians regarding Rimsha Masih’s case,” according to the organization’s website.
Peter Bhatti’s older brother, Paul Bhatti, is Pakistan’s Minister of National Harmony and Minority Affairs. Peter’s younger brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, was Pakistan’s federal minister for minority affairs, and a high-profile critic of the way the country’s anti-blasphemy laws were being used to marginalize Pakistan’s religious minorities, including Christians. Shahbaz was assassinated in 2011; a letter left at the scene said those who try to change Pakistan’s blasphemy laws would be killed.