In a disturbing development in the Rimsha Masih case, the cleric who publicly defended the 14-year-old Christian girl against charges of blasphemy and protested her innocence was kidnapped on Thursday and released after being warned of dire consequences.
Maulana Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, the chairman of the Ulema and Mashaikh Council, was kidnapped from Islamabad’s high security diplomatic enclave. Police say it was a routine kidnapping but some say it was a militant group giving Ashrafi a message not to support religious minorities.
Ashrafi, who was on his way to the German embassy, was recovered from a nearby area late at night, say police officials. Ashrafi had been drugged, say police, who also claim his kidnappers were arrested but they refused to identify them.
Ashrafi has been vocal in the Rimsha Masih case as he had demanded that the girl be released since she was found innocent. Ashrafi also managed to get other religious parties to back him in what was seen as a first by the country’s right wingers.
Ashrafi, who is also known for his hate speeches against the US, aligned himself with minority groups on the issue of Rimsha Masih and then later when churches were attacked during the recent protests against the anti-Islam film which rocked Pakistan, he demanded a government inquiry to identify the arsonists and punish them.
Ashrafi said he would be part of a group that presents a memorandum to Western envoys over the anti-Islam film.