An 11-year-old Christian girl has been arrested and detained on charges of blasphemy for allegedly desecrating pages from the Quran in the Pakistan capital Islamabad.
According to a statement released by the President’s office on Sunday, the girl, identified as Ramsha, was accused by a local resident of burning pages of the Muslim holy text after she gathered paper as fuel for cooking.
Local media reports said the girl has Down syndrome. CNN was unable to confirm these reports, however Qasim Niazi, the police officer in charge of the police station near where the incident took place, said the girl did not have a mental disorder but was illiterate and had not attended school.
The accused girl had told him she had no idea there were pages of the Quran inside the documents she burnt, he added.
Niazi said that 150 people had gathered on Friday where the neighborhood’s Christian population lived and threatened to burn down their houses.
“The mob wanted to burn the girl to give her a lesson,” he told CNN.
Other Christian families living in the area have fled fearing a backlash, he added.
The statement from President Asif Ali Zardari called for an urgent report into the incident and said that vulnerable sections of society must be protected “from any misuse of the blasphemy law.”
“Blasphemy by anyone cannot be condoned but no one will be allowed to misuse blasphemy law for settling personal scores,” the president’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said.
Some reaction, from Vatican Radio:
The arrest of the girl who is reported to be mentally handicapped has provoked outrage among the Christian community.
Sister Daniela Baronchelli from the Italian order of le Figlie di San Paolo or Children of St Paul in Karachi says Christians in Pakistan are suffering.
Police say the investigation is continuing and as yet no conclusion had been reached in the case.
In Pakistan, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, or, the Quran, can be sentenced to death.