Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Update on the Pakistani Blasphemy Case

by Isobel Coleman
September 7, 2012

A family rides past the locked house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, on the outskirts of Islamabad on August 23, 2012 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters). A family rides past the locked house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, on the outskirts of Islamabad on August 23, 2012 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, when I wrote about the blasphemy charges against Rimsha Masih–a young Christian girl in Pakistan who apparently is developmentally disabled–she was in police custody. Today, in a surprise development, the judge in the case allowed her to be released on bail, and in theory, Masih should leave jail at some point soon.

Despite the good news, Masih still has a long road ahead. Although her advocates hope that the charges against her will be dropped, there’s still a chance that she could stand trial. Her release from prison also raises the immediate concern of harm at the hands of some extremist. Vigilante justice all too often decides the outcomes of blasphemy cases, so the safety of Masih and her family is a pressing issue. Nonetheless, the bail decision is a sign that the shameful facts of the case are embarrassing the government and moving the case in the right direction. Let’s hope that it will create some momentum to tackle the bigger issue of the perverse blasphemy laws themselves.

 

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