By: Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: Rimsha Masih, the 14-year old blasphemy accused, who has been shifted to an undisclosed location, is still hysteric. She is flooded with the fear of being killed, yet determined to live in her beloved Pakistan.
“They will kill me,” she said in a trembling voice during a telephonic conversation with Nasir Habib, a producer of CNN TV, who shared details with The News later on. Rimsha did not know who will eliminate her but could only tell: “They.” Probably she was making an oblique reference to those who implicated her.
“They won’t leave me,” she insisted and started crying. Nevertheless, Rimsha said she wanted to return to her home provided people of the area treat her with kindness and compassion. At the beginning of the conversation, she was overtly nervous and speechless. “What can I say Uncle,” she asked Nasir when he inquired about her well being. She started pleading innocence. “I have done nothing. I have done nothing.” As her family has been offered settlement abroad, Rimsha was adamant not to leave Pakistan.
Her father’s stand was not different either. He felt irritated when repeatedly inquired about a plan to leave Pakistan. “Why are you asking this,” he said throwing a counter question at Nasir.
Though Rimsha’s father shared the terrible ordeal the family has been through since the start of this sordid episode, he said he could not think of quitting Pakistan. “Our life has turned into hell. We are finding no place to hide from the people after us,” he said. But Rimsha’s father told Nasir that he would not leave Pakistan at any cost.
Their passion for Pakistan tells a lot about the minorities’ love for the country, no matter they are rated and treated like second-rate citizens always at the mercy of fanatics who spare no opportunity to persecute them socially and religiously.
This correspondent personally knows several individuals of the minority community, who were degraded, isolated and their right of equality was questioned, yet their love for the homeland never saw any let up.
One such example is 33-year Amir Davis, a Pakistani hardware engineer working in Ireland with multinational company Intel. During his school days, a food shop owner at his home town, Kelaske (Gujranwala), had barred him from drinking water in a glass on the grounds that he was a Christian. Amir was studying in a university at Lahore when 9/11 occurred and he was offered sweets being distributed to celebrate the killings of non-Muslims there. “Just imagine my condition how would be I feeling at this,” he told this correspondent recently, recollecting his past experience.
As he settled in Ireland for better opportunities, he started a school at his home town for free education to the poor students regardless of their religious affiliation. The Intel, his employer, declared him a global hero in recognition of his services in the field of education back at home. He was invited at the company’s headquarter at San Francisco and granted $10,000 prize that he donated to his school.
Compared to this global recognition, he was more excited when he was selected for a couple of awards by civil society organization in Pakistan acknowledging his services. Neither of them offered any traveling and lodging expenses for him to come from Ireland for collecting this award but he did all this happily only for the reason that he was being honored by his motherland.
In Rimsha’s case it has been learnt that the Christian community has decided to convert this tragedy into an opportunity by telling the Muslim population that not only their patriotism can be questioned, they have profound regard for their religion. At no point of time, a blasphemy accused has earned public support like Rimsha in a country like Pakistan where people use blasphemy law to settle personal scores.
Since 1986, as many as 102 blasphemy accused have been acquitted by the courts of law due to want of evidence and after establishing that the cases were motivated by personal disputes.
The Centre for Legal Aid and Assistance in Settlement (CLAAS) had conducted a survey of 14 jails, out of 24, where the blasphemy accused have been imprisoned, said Joseph Francis, country director of CLAAS. To the amazement of many, they visited 96 accused and 90 of them were non-Muslims. “They are really in bad shape. You can’t meet them for more than a minute.” They have been kept in a bad shape, he explained. Their relatives do not come to see them out of public fear, Joseph told The News.
About Aasiya Bibi case, another blasphemy accused who cost Governor Salman Taseer his life when he extended a hand of support, Joseph said the case is set to be heard by Lahore High Court next month and he would represent her. She was sentenced to death by a Court of Sessions judge. Among the accused acquitted in the past, majority secured release at the high court level.