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Zardari: Blasphemy law must not be abused

Published By United Press International
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Following the arrest of a Christian girl on blasphemy charges, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said the blasphemy law won't be misused.

Zardari, co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, has taken "serious notice" of the 11-year-old's arrest and called on the Interior Ministry to investigate and write a report, Dawn reported Monday.

Nafisa Shah, head of the party's human rights unit, also expressed concern over the girl's arrest, calling it "a glaring example" of misuse of the blasphemy law, which providing penalties ranging from a fine to death.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Khan Babar said Zardari has said blasphemy by anyone could not be condoned, but misusing the strict law for personal reasons cannot be allowed.

The Christian girl living in a rural area of Islamabad was arrested last week and jailed allegedly for desecrating pages which contained some religious text, Dawn said. Police said they received reports that the girl was "moving suspiciously" and carried a shopping bag where they found some burned papers.

Dawn said the girl was unable to answer any questions properly during interrogation and that she had said she was taking the papers to a "safe place." Police said the girl has Down syndrome and medical exam was performed.

Shah also called on the government to immediately solve the problem, saying the administration should have investigated before detaining the girl.

"All political parties and religious leaders must come together to find a solution to this issue which is creating insecurity among the minorities," she said. "[It] is important to build consensus and recognize that there is a need to find ways to prevent such incidents where poor and disadvantaged communities are falsely charged."

Last year, two PPP leaders were assassinated after they suggested the law should be changed.
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