Aasia Bibi's name cannot be put on ECL without her being proven guilty: Shehryar Afridi

Published November 7, 2018
In this file photo, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi speaks at a press conference in Islamabad. — APP
In this file photo, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi speaks at a press conference in Islamabad. — APP

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi said in a recent interview that Aasia Bibi's name cannot be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) until she is proven guilty by a court of law or until such orders are given by the Supreme Court (SC).

In an exclusive interview to Voice of America, Afridi said that rumours circulating about Aasia leaving the country are false and that the government is providing her and her family security.

The Supreme Court had acquitted Aasia Bibi on Oct 30, but the decision sparked three-day-long mass protests led by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

The protests were called off after the religio-political party reached an agreement with the government, the foremost condition of which was the placement of Aasia's name on the ECL.

However, the government had only agreed to "initiate the legal process" to place her name on the list, while also agreeing that it would not oppose any review petitions being filed against the SC judgement.

When asked about the conditions of the agreement, Afridi replied that a review petition is everyone's right as per the law.

He, however, stated that any order given by the SC would be followed to the letter.

"Unless a person is declared guilty, there is no legal ground ─ how can his or her name be placed on the ECL?" he asked. "There is no question regarding this."

"Every Pakistani, regardless of his creed or religion, is the state's responsibility. No one in Pakistan can be given a license to play with someone's life or property in order to get their terms accepted."

Referring to the law and order situation in the wake of the SC decision, Afridi said that hateful speeches are made even in more civilised countries.

The minister said that when the protests broke out, the government had decided against the use of force, subsequently engaging with the TLP.

"In Balochistan, even one who surrenders his arms is forgiven," he said by way of explaining the government's decision to not proceed with force.

When asked whether the protesters had also laid down their weapons, he called attention to the fact that an apology from the TLP was one of the points included in the agreement.

He said that when footage of protesters engaging in acts of violence was shown to TLP leaders, the party leadership distanced itself from those individuals.

Afridi said that hundreds of miscreants were subsequently detained and criminal proceedings against them are underway.

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