Pakistan’s President Orders Report on Girl’s Arrest for Blasphemy

Posted August 20th, 2012 at 8:25 am (UTC-5)
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Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has asked the country's Interior Ministry for a report about the arrest of a Christian girl on blasphemy charges for allegedly desecrating a religious text.

Police say the girl was taken into custody on Thursday after angry neighbors surrounded her house in Islamabad and accused her of burning pages inscribed with verses from the Koran. Others said she was burning papers from the garbage for cooking.

Police say the girl will be held for 14 days while the case is investigated. President Zardari on Monday took “serious note” of the girl's detention and called for a report on her arrest.

There are varying reports of the girl's age, with some saying she is as young as 11 years old. Others quote police who say she is 16. There are also reports that the girl is mentally handicapped.

Human rights activists say the blasphemy law in Pakistan is sometimes used to harass religious minorities.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Khan Babar said blasphemy cannot be condoned, but no one would be allowed to use it to settle personal scores.

Two prominent Pakistani politicians were killed in 2011 for speaking out against the country's blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty for insulting Islam.

Christians are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Pakistan, making up about 5 percent of the population.