Dutch envoy to return to Pakistan 4 months after receiving death threats in wake of anti-Islam contest

Updated January 26, 2019

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She was on leave in the Netherlands in late October last year when she received word “that a letter arrived at the embassy from Pakistani authorities.” —Dutch embassy
She was on leave in the Netherlands in late October last year when she received word “that a letter arrived at the embassy from Pakistani authorities.” —Dutch embassy

The Dutch ambassador to Pakistan will return to Islamabad in February following an absence of more than four months in wake of the alleged death threat received last year, reportedly from religious parties angry over anti-Islam tweets by far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, the Dutch media said on Saturday.

Ardi Stoios-Braken “will fly back to Islamabad in early February,” the daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad reported.

She was on leave in the Netherlands in late October last year when she received the word “that a letter arrived at the embassy from Pakistani authorities.”

“The letter spoke of a 'specific threat' and was related to the [anti-Islam] cartoon contest which had already been cancelled months before,” the paper said. The cartoons were seen by Muslims as derogatory to the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).

Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in November that Stoios-Braken, a veteran diplomat, faced “threats” in Pakistan, apparently over “blasphemous depictions” by Wilders on Twitter.

In August last year, anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders had cancelled the planned caricatures contest following "death threats and concerns other people could be put at risk".

The Dutch prime minister had distanced his government from the cartoon contest being organised by Wilders.

Wilders “is not a member of the government. The competition is not a government initiative,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte had said.

Pakistan’s interior ministry in October wrote a secret memo about plans to “target” the Dutch ambassador by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), media from both countries reported at the time. The TLP, however, has denied making any threats.

The TLP had led protests in August calling for Pakistan to sever diplomatic relations with the Netherlands over the Wilders cartoon contest.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands last year granted a temporary stay to the lawyer who saved Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, from death row.

The country accorded Saiful Malook the temporary stay after he fled Islamabad when violence erupted following the Supreme Court's acquittal of Asia Bibi on the blasphemy charges.

The Pakistani government has since launched a crackdown on the TLP, charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism.

But authorities also struck a deal with the protesters to end the violence, forming an agreement which included allowing a final review of the Supreme Court's judgement.

The Supreme Court will decide next week whether to allow an appeal against Asia Bibi's acquittal.