An 11 year old Christian Pakistani girl, alleged to have Downs Syndrome, was jailed last week under Pakistani’s “Blasphemy Laws.” She is being held in a suburb of Islamabad, where she resides, and is awaiting a medical report confirming her Downs Syndrome diagnosis, a report that may free her from her bondage.
Islamic Fundamentalists have pushed through laws of this nature in most countries ruled by “Islam.”
Pakistan, in the world spotlight because of its stature as the largest Islamic country with a semi-democracy, and the visibility of the Afganistan war and the Taliban, have had to walk a fine line in recent years over blasphemy laws, and the anti Christian movement afoot has not helped.
Peter Jacob, a human rights activist, who heads the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a Christian human rights organization, says around 250 to 300 families have fled the area where the girl lives. “Things have calmed down in the area now they do not want to return, because who can guarantee that it will not happen again?” says Mr. Jacob.
Local officials said that the girl was arrested for her own safety, “If the girl was free and not in jail, it would have been impossible to protect her,”
Police indicated that a local cleric may have tried to hold the girl, “We have also filed a case against the local cleric accusing her because he damaged police property and wanted us to hand over the girl to her. But we did not arrest him yet because it is such a religiously sensitive issue that if we do anything against the cleric it could land us in trouble,”
The U.S State Dept said today that the August 16th detention and subsequent arrest of a Christian girl with “Downs Syndrome” was “deeply disturbing.”
Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the U.S. state department said in her daily press conference, “This case is obviously deeply disturbing, the arrest of a young Pakistani girl on blasphemy charges,” adding, “We would call on the Pakistanis to have that investigation in a transparent way. And we think that the president’s statement is very welcome, and we urge the government of Pakistan to protect not just its religious minority citizens but also women and girls,” Nuland said.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has weighed in quickly, in an effort to quell Muslim-Christian violence. “President Zardari, to his credit, went out very quickly. So conceivably, we’ve been welcoming of that move in Islamabad, as well,” Nuland said, very appreciative of the move made by the Pakistani President.
“Zardari has now asked the interior ministry to look into the arrest and has underscored that vulnerable populations have to be protected from misuse of the blasphemy law,” she said.
Downs Syndrome is a rare chromosomal birth defect that develops in-utero, and presents with numerous congenital anomalies, most often Tetralogy of Fallot, which is a combination of four birth defects: 1.) A large overriding aorta, 2.) A malaligned Ventricular Septal Defect, 3.) Pulmonary Stenosis and 4). Right Ventricular Hypertrophy.
Normally, people have 23 pairs of chromosomes in almost every cell in their body, but in Down’s Syndrome, something goes wrong and the child is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21.
It has been known for some time that babies born to mothers in their 30s and 40s have an increased risk of Down’s Syndrome compared to younger mothers, and we also know that having the extra chromosome, called “trisomy”, is because the chromosomes don’t split properly during cell division from the fertilised egg cell. So far however, the reason why this “non-disjunction” of chromosomes occurs in older mothers has remained unclear.
In recent year’s it has been associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Reported by Jim Donahue with Lisa A. Martin