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Blasphemy case: Christian girl's accuser arrested for planting evidence

Pakistani police have arrested Muslim cleric Khalid Chishti after his deputy came forward to accuse Mr. Chishti of adding burnt pages of the Quran to an evidence submission.

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Pakistani Muslim girls talk about press gathered outside a mosque, unseen, where police arrested a Muslim cleric Khalid Chishti, in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday. In the latest twist in a religiously charged case that has focused attention on the country's harsh blasphemy laws, Pakistani police arrested Chishti who they say planted evidence in the case of a Christian girl accused of blasphemy.

Anjum Naveed/AP

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A Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan may have been framed by a Muslim cleric. Pakistani police arrested the cleric Saturday night, accusing him of tampering with evidence that purported to show she had desecrated the Quran. 

The cleric, Khalid Chishti, was arrested after the deputy cleric of the same mosque came forward with allegations that he saw Mr. Chishti adding burnt pages of Quran to the evidence that was given to the police.

According to the police, Hafiz Mohammad Zubair, the deputy cleric, says he tried to stop Chishti from tampering with the evidence but the cleric insisted that this is the best way to get rid of the Christians in the area.

This latest twist in a case that had already drawn international outcry will add pressure on Pakistani authorities to absolve the girl, still in prison since last month and facing a possible life sentence. The revelations will also bolster campaigners who have tried to amend or repeal the law for years by arguing that many cases are trumped up to persecute minorities or settle local scores.

“It is a sigh of relief because now everyone knows there was victimization of the minor girl,” says Peter Jacob, head of Christian activist group, who provide legal support to minorities in Pakistan.

“This abuse has been ongoing for two and a half decades and with this case coming to light, we can actually see that there are lacunas in the blasphemy law that need to be removed so such abuse does not take place,” says Mr. Jacob, adding that the government should use this opportunity to amend the law. “If the law cannot be repealed, the state can at least create safeguards, using this case as an example,” Jacob says.

In a televised interview from a few days before, Khalid Chishti had accepted that he spoke about evicting the Christians from his locality, in one of his Friday sermons.

Chaudry Asghar, a local shopkeeper told the Monitor that local elders and religious clerics had formed a committee a few months back to expel the Christians from the area because they were causing disturbance during Muslim prayers.

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