ISLAMABAD, Oct 1: International outcry and media attention did help the little Christian girl accused of blasphemy but the same have added to the worries of the community of Mehria Jafar rural suburbs where she lived.
“We are peace-loving and God-fearing people but feel caught in a circus,” Yunus, a resident, complained to Dawn.
A Christian, he wanted the case to be “buried” because he worries the longer it lingers on the more possibility of outside influences penetrating and disturbing the peaceful community of Muslims and Christians.
Muslim residents shared his worry. They feel upset at “the unwanted interest outsiders have been showing” and the handling of the case by the police. The case took a new turn on Monday when some witnesses told the court that they had testified against the Imam of the community mosque, Hafiz Khalid Jadoon, under police duress.
“Worst occurs when media and NGO people descend on our locality at every turn and twist in the case, and tickers run and news is flashed by TV channels that bring more people of all kinds to us,” said Hafiz Umar Farooq bitterly.
Hafiz Farooq was the man who had stopped the incident turning into mob justice and brought the police to deal with the matter.
Other influential figures of the locality agreed with him that law should take its course and he had jumped on his motorcycle and went to the police station.
“But now we see too many inquisitive outsiders moving around,” added Hafiz Farooq, complaining that it has restricted the free movement of women in the layback rural community.
His brother Abu Bakar pointed to some women belonging to media and NGOs active in the locality at that moment. “Their modern, urban styles could be a bad influence on our girls. We are still very much a traditional society here,” he said.
However, his conservatism did not cloud his judgment of the turn the case has been taking. He said there was something odd in the whole episode. “It was odd when the muezzin Malik Zubair took 15 days to depose against the Imam and it looks odd today when other witnesses went back on their testimonies against the accused Imam. That is why we don’t trust the police,” he said.
Though belonging almost to the same clan, the blasphemy issue has divided the Muslims of the locality.
Meanwhile, while both the accused – the minor Christian girl of blasphemy and the Imam of fabricating the evidence – are facing trial, their accusers – Malik Ummad and muezzin Hafiz Zubair – have made themselves invisible to the public.
Relatives of Malik Ummad said they fear he would be harmed by the police or extremist Muslims if he appeared in public.
“Muslims and Christians are living here peacefully even after the blasphemy uproar. Nobody is speaking against anybody here,” said a close relative who did not wish to be named.
“We notice that following the media and social workers, extremist Muslims have also been visiting us. That would spell trouble if they take roots here and rob us of the peace and tranquility,” he said.