An 8-year-old Hindu child is detained under protective order by Pakistani police after being arrested for the crime of blasphemy. The boy, a resident of the province of Punjab, on the border with India, is accused of urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa (religious school) last month.
As reported by British newspaper The Guardian, he is the youngest person accused of blasphemy in the Asian country. The punishment for the crime, widely criticized by the international community, can amount to life imprisonment or death. Even in cases where the accused manage to free themselves, it is common for them to suffer persecution from the community. This is what has happened now with the 8 year old.
The boy was detained for a week and released a few days after his release on bail. As a result, however, her family, now in hiding, began to be persecuted. A mob of Muslims attacked a Hindu temple in Rahim Yar Khan, the boy’s hometown – Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country, with Hindus and Christians among the ethnic minorities.
On Saturday (7), 20 people were arrested accused of having participated in the attack. The authorities have decided to grant a measure of protection to the child. In anonymity, a family member told The Guardian the boy did not even understand the crime he was accused of.
“The whole community is afraid and afraid of the reactions. We do not see any concrete and significant action against the culprits or to protect the minorities who live here,” he added.
On a social network, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he condemned the bombing of the temple, that he would ensure punishment for possible police negligence and that the state would restore the destroyed space.
Amnesty International condemned the boy’s arrest. In a statement released on Monday (9), Rimmel Mohydin, the organization’s representative in South Asia, said that “Pakistan’s blasphemy law has long been used to target minority groups, but this case marks a shocking point and extreme “.
The memo calls for the charges against the boy to be dropped immediately and continues: “During the week marking National Minority Day in Pakistan, we call on the authorities to urgently repeal this legislation.” The organization says Pakistan’s blasphemy, coercive and abusive laws violate the country’s international obligations to respect and protect human rights, including freedom of religion.
This is not the first case where a minor has been detained under Pakistani law relating to the crime of blasphemy. In 2012, then 13-year-old Rimsha Masih was jailed for three weeks for desecrating the Koran, a Muslim holy book.
The young girl, then illiterate, was released on bail and under pressure from international human rights organizations. She and her family found refuge in Canada months later as they continued to be persecuted in Pakistan. The imam of the mosque near his home, who made the denunciation, was arrested, accused of fabricating evidence against the girl, but the charges against him were not accepted by the country’s courts .
There is a long list of other cases. In 2019, farmer Asia Bibi also managed to find refuge in Canada after a ten-year journey. She, who is a Christian, was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death after drinking a glass of water in front of other Muslims, which was considered blasphemy by a Pakistani court.
In 2015, a 15-year-old boy cut his hand in self-punishment after being accused of blasphemy by the imam of the mosque he attended – the accusation had been a mistake. In July 2020, a man tried for the crime was shot dead in court. Many more are still on death row and await appeals in the prisons of this Asian country.