A Pakistani court on Tuesday directed the police to withdraw the blasphemy case against Rimsha Masih, a teenager, and advocated extreme caution while invoking the provisions under the blasphemy laws. However, Ms. Masih — said to be suffering from Down Syndrome — remains in hiding, the security of her family being a cause for concern as people acquitted of blasphemy charges have been attacked in the past.

The closure was ordered by the Islamabad High Court after her lawyers petitioned it to quash the FIR. Her lawyers maintain there is no evidence against her. After the case was filed in August, there have been conflicting eyewitness accounts, one suggesting the cleric who accused her of burning pages of a sacred text in Arabic had planted the evidence to implicate her. Confusion persists on what happened in the slum cluster, on the outskirts of Islamabad, when Ms. Masih was allegedly found with the pages. Some say she had picked up the pages and some that she was caught burning the pages.

After the case was filed, her family, along with 300 other Christian families, fled. But a muezzin of the local mosque and a couple of others alleged that the cleric had planted the burnt pages to force the Christian community to leave the area.

Their statements secured Ms. Masih bail, about a fortnight after her arrest. She was whisked off from the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi to an undisclosed location.

In between, there were rumours that she had been taken out of the country. A month after she was granted bail, two of the eyewitnesses who testified against the cleric turned hostile.

The frequent twists and turns and the international attention that it caught because of the age and health condition of the girl also saw a leading cleric — chairman of Pakistan Ulema Council Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi — not only pick up cudgels for her but also offer protection to her and the family.


Rimsha’s neighbours still in fear’s grip October 1, 2013

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