ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that Aasia Bibi, who has been acquitted of a blasphemy charge by the Supreme Court, cannot leave the country because of pending review of her case before the court.
“She is here. A review petition is being heard, so how can she go,” Mr Qureshi said while talking to journalists on Wednesday.
There was speculation after Aasia’s release from jail last week that she might go abroad in view of security threats.
“There is no controversy, she is here,” Mr Qureshi said.
Legally there is no bar on Aasia’s international travel. However, the government has in its agreement with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan leadership — for ending the sit-in against the Christian woman’s acquittal — committed to not allowing her to leave the country till a decision on the review petition.
Qari Salam, the complainant in the Aasia case, had filed the review petition against the apex court judgement.
Legal adviser with the International Commission of Jurists Reema Omar said: “Aasia Bibi is a free person and according to Pakistani law, her freedom of movement cannot be restricted. The foreign ministry’s reading of how a review petition impacts the enjoyment of fundamental rights is prohibitive and oppressive.”
A number of countries have called for Aasia to be given asylum. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had spoken to Mr Qureshi on the issue earlier this week.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had in an interview with AFP said: “We are in discussions with the Pakistani government. He further said that “there is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don’t want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country”, suggesting that asylum had been offered to Aasia.
Aasia’s lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook has already taken refuge in the Netherlands.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018