By BosNewsLife Asia Service
KARACHI/ISLAMABAD (BosNewsLife)– Hundreds of Pakistani Christians were camping on an open field in the capital Islamabad Thursday, October 11, terrified to go home after a court granted bail to an anti-Christian Muslim leader while authorities detained a Christian boy on charges of blasphemy.
The cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, was to be released after posting the $2,000 bail, his attorney Wajid Ali Gilani told reporters. Chishti was detained last month for allegedly “tampering with evidence” to accuse a 14-year-old mentally challenged girl, Rimsha Masih, of burning pages of the Koran.
Four witnesses initially told police they saw Chishti tear pages out of a Koran, but three of them later withdrew their statements saying they were recorded under duress.
Rimsha was already released on bail last month, amid an international outcry over her detention in an adult prison near Islamabad.
News of Chisti’s release came while police detained another youngster, identified as 16-year-old Ryan Stanten, in the Pakistani city of Karachi after he allegedly forwarded a text message containubg “offensive material” on Tuesday, October 10.
The following day an angry crowd ransacked his family home, setting fire to their belongings on the street, Christians said.
Stanten has reportedly denied wrongdoing, saying he did not read the message, but his mother has already been dismissed by a local gas company because of the controversy.
Amid the tensions, hundreds of Christian refugees were seen camping in the capital Islamabad with access to proper sanitation or running (drinking) water,
said Christian aid worker Khalid Shahzad, director of the Dorothea Center for Special Children.
He told BosNewsLife that at least 100 Christian families arrived this week at the open field after fleeing from Islamabad’s slum area Meherabadi, where Rimsha grew up. “They are terrified what will happen when the Muslim leader is released,” he said. “They urgently need warm clothing and food.”
While Rimsha and several family members remained in hiding Thursday, October 11, there were reports that her uncle and a cousin were attacked by angry Muslims.
“Sadrik Masih and his son Alisha were surrounded while driving on a motor cycle by angry Muslims. They were beaten up in an attack clearly linked to the blasphemy case,” added Shahzad, who has been in contact with the family.
The incidents come amid heightened tensions over Pakistan’s blasphemy legislation with 15 cases of people on death row.
At least 52 people are known to have died while facing trial since the law was introduced in 1986, according to rights activists.