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PAKISTAN: A mentally retarded minor is arrested on the charges of blasphemy; her mother and sister remain missing after their arrest

August 19, 2012

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-146-2012

19 August 2012

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PAKISTAN: A mentally retarded minor is arrested on the charges of blasphemy; her mother and sister remain missing after their arrest

ISSUES: Blasphemy, child rights, illegal detention, missing

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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a minor Christian girl, Miss Ramsha, 11, was arrested on the charges of blasphemy when she burned some copies of newspapers which were collected from the garbage. The Muslim population of the slum area attacked her house and beat her mother and sister and also burned some houses of Christians. The police arrested the mother and her two daughters and immediately sent Ramsha to Adiala prison illegally as according to law minors below the age of 15 years cannot be sent to prison or detained in police lockup. After her arrest police took the custody of her mother and sister and their whereabouts are unknown. Police say that both mother and daughter are in the protective custody because of the apprehension of their killing by the Muslim activists. However, the Christian community suspect that they were handed over the Muslim activists and that their lives may be in serious danger.

The Christian population has already vacated the area. The Christians living in other slum areas are also scared and demanded protection from the authorities but no action has been taken.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Miss Ramsha, 11, mentally retarded, daughter of Misraf Masih, was residing at Hameera abadi, sector G-8, Islamabad with a sizeable number of Christians, and was collecting used papers from the garbage for night cooking as there is no gas connections and poor people depend on burning wood. When, after sunset she was burning the copies of newspapers, collected from the garbage, a Muslim lady entered her house and started shouting that Ramsha is burning the papers from holy Quran. At that time her elder sister, Mashal, 14, was at home and her father and mother were out for their work. At this moment both sisters told the Muslim crowd, which was gathered after listening the shouting from Muslim lady, that the papers were from garbage and those are from newspapers but the crowd started beating them and suddenly their mother also arrived and she was also beaten. The other Christian residents also tried to settle the issue but they were beaten as well. Both sisters and her mother received injuries and in the meanwhile the owner of the house, a Muslim man, arrived and called the police in an effort to save the Christians.

Police took the mother and her two daughters into custody. A first information report (FIR) was filed in the Ramna police station in which Miss Ramsha was made the main accused of blasphemy. But police arrested all the three. Seeing the tension in the area as Muslim activists on the instigation from the mosques started attacking and burning the Christian houses, Ramna police immediately sent the minor to the notorious Adiala prison and kept her mother and sister in the women police station for some time. When activists tried to gather outside the Ramna police station, the police shifted both mother and sister to some unknown place and according to police this action was taken for their safety. But the father of the victims and other Christians are suspicious and it was accused that both mother and daughter have been taken away by some militants.

The Christians from different slums areas of the Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, have started leaving their communities and apprehend that their houses would be attacked and burned. The Islamabad administration has yet not taken any action to protect the Christian population.

It is also accused by Christian population that some powerful persons want to grab the Christian dominated areas for commercial purposes and use by Muslim activists.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Currently, extreme militant Muslim organisations may use blasphemy laws as a way to pressure and oppress religious minority groups. So far, the government has failed to protect the lives and property of the minority community. Although there is formal protection in place for religious minorities in the Constitution and although the blasphemy law has made it compulsory that no police officer below the rank of Superintendent of Police can investigate the charges, these statutes are rarely respected.

Religious minority groups in Pakistan remain vulnerable due to the continued use and abuse of blasphemy charges, despite section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The police, who fail to follow the code and who operate under the directives of extremists in the community, must face strong legal action. Charges of blasphemy are still met with the death penalty in Pakistan.

The deliberate institutionalisation of Islam’s status as protected and predominant promoted the perpetuation of religious intolerance by Islamic fundamentalists. According to data collected through different sources at least 1030 persons were charged under these anti-blasphemy clauses from 1986 to August 2009, while over 30 persons were killed extra-judicially by angry mobs or individuals.

Militant Muslim organisations are using blasphemy as a tool as the best way to keep religious minority groups under pressure and even forcibly take land. The State is failing to protect the lives and property of the minority community. Additional information regarding the case.

 

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write the letters to the given authorities calling them to inquire about the incident of Hameera abadi, Islamabad where a mentally retarded minor girl was arrested on the charges of blasphemy and kept in the Adiala prison where minors are not allowed to be detained. Please urge them to immediately release the minor and recover her mother and sister who are missing after their arrest. Please also urge them to prosecute the concerned police officials of the Ramna police station for filing the case of blasphemy against mentally retarded minor and without the proper investigation.


The AHRC writes a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and Independent Expert on minority issues calling for their intervention into this matter.

To support this appeal, please click here: 

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

PAKISTAN: A mentally retarded minor girl is arrested on the charges of blasphemy; her mother and sister are missing after their arrest

Name of victims:

1. Miss Ramsha, 11, mentally retarded, daughter of Misraf Masih, resident of Hameera abadi, sector G-8, Islamabad
2. Miss Mashal, daughter of Misraf Masih, resident of Hameera abadi, sector G-8, Islamabad
3. Mrs Misraf Masih, resident of Hameera abadi, sector G-8, Islamabad


Names of alleged perpetrators:
Police officials of Ramna Police Station, Islamabad

Date of incident: August 16, 2012
Place of incident: Hameera abadi, sector G-8, Islamabad


I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the case of misuse of the blasphemy of Islamabad against a11 year old mentally retarded Christian girl for burning the papers collected from the garbage.

It is very shocking for me that the minor girl has been sent to Adiala prison which is only for adults instead of sending her to protective child welfare centers known as remand homes which are in every city if the country. Her mother and sister are also missing after they custody by the Ramna police station, Islamad and their whereabouts are unknown.

Miss Ramsha, 11, mentally retarded, daughter of Misraf Masih, was the residing at Hameera abadi, sector G-8, Islamabad with a sizeable numbers of Christians, and was collecting used papers from the garbage for night cooking as there is no gas connections and poor people depend on burning wood. When after sun set she was burning the copies of newspapers, collected from the garbage, a Muslim lady entered her house and started shouting that Ramsha is burning the papers from holy Quran. At that time her elder sister, Mashal, 14, was at home and her father and mother were out for their job. At this moment both sisters told the Muslim crowd, which was gathered after listening the shouting from Muslim lady, that the papers were from garbage and those are from newspapers but the crowd started beating them and suddenly their mother also arrived and she was also beaten. The other Christian residents also tried to settled the issue but they were beaten. Both sisters and her mother received the injuries and in the meanwhile the owner of the house, a Mulim man, arrived and called the police in the effort to save the Christians.

Police took the mother nad her two daughters in custody. A first information report (FIR) was filed in the Ramna police station in which Miss Ramsha was made the main accuse of blasphemy. But police arrested all the three. Seeing the tension in the area as Muslim activists on the instigation from the mosques started attacking and burning the Christian houses, Ramna police immediately sent the minor to the notorious Adiala prison and kept her mother and sister in the women police station for some time. When activists tried to gather out side the Ramna police station, the police shifted both mother and sister to some unknown place and according to police this action was taken for their safety. But the father of the victims and other Christians are suspicious of their missing and it was accused that both mother and daughter have been taken away by some militants.

The Christians from different slums areas of the Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, have started leaving their communities and apprehend that their houses would be attacked and burned. The Islamabad administration has yet not taken any action to protect the Christian population.

It is also accused by Christian population that some powerful persons want to grab the Christian dominating areas for their commercial purposes and using the Muslim activists.

I therefore urge you to investigate the incident of Hameera abadi, Islamabad where a mentally retarded minor girl was arrested on the charges of blasphemy and kept in the Adiala prison where minors are not allowed to be detained. I urge you to immediately release the minor and recover her mother and sister who are missing after their arrest. Please also prosecute the concerned police officials of the Ramna police station for filing the case of blasphemy against mentally retarded minor and with out the proper investigation.

 

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President of Pakistan
President's Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel +92 51 9204801+51 9214171
Fax: +92 51 9207458
Email: publicmail@president.gov.pk

2.Mr. Raja Pervez Ashraf
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Prime Minister House
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 9221596
E-mail: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk, pspm@pmsectt.gov.pk

3. Dr. Fehmida Mirza
Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan
Parliament house, Islamabad,
PAKISTAN
Email: speaker@na.gov.pk
Tel. No. +92 51 920 3734 +92 51 922 1082
Fax: +92 51 920 4673 / +92 51 922 1106

4.Mr. Maula Bux Chandio
Federal Minister
Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs
Government of Pakistan,
R block, Pak Secretariat
Islamabad, PAKISTAN
Tel: 92-51- 9202712
FAX: 92-51-9202541
E-mail: minister@molaw.gov.pk

5. Federal Minister for Human Rights
Ministry of Human Rights
Old US AID Building
Ata Turk Avenue
G-5, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 9204108
E-mail: sarfaraz_yousuf@yahoo.com

6. Dr. Faqir Hussain
Registrar
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Constitution Avenue, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 9213452
E-mail: mail@supremecourt.gov.pk

 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-146-2012
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.