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November 9, 2018

FO denies reports about Aasia Bibi leaving Pakistan

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November 9, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday said Pakistan has taken notice of a first deterrence patrol of an Indian nuclear submarine and subsequent self-congratulatory messages in India.

During his weekly briefing here, the Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said the development marks the first actual deployment of ready-to-fire nuclear warheads in South Asia, which is a matter of concern not only for the Indian Ocean littoral states but also for the international community at large. He said the bellicose language employed by the top Indian leadership highlights the threats to the strategic stability in South Asia and raises questions about responsible nuclear stewardship in India. “Pakistan is committed to the objective of strategic stability in South Asia and believes that the only way forward for both the countries is to agree on measures for nuclear and missile restraint. At the same time, no one should be in doubt about Pakistan’s resolve and capabilities to meet the challenges posed by the latest developments both in the nuclear and conventional realms in South Asia,” he said.

The spokesman vehemently denied foreign media reports that Aasia Bibi, a Christian lady whose conviction and death sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court, had flown out of Pakistan. “Aasia Bibi is still very much in Pakistan and has not left the country. She is in Pakistan and is safe,” the spokesman said. However, he declined to specify exactly where is she being held after the government sources earlier said she was flown from a jail in Multan to Islamabad.

When asked about Aasia’s lawyer who told the media that he was flown to Netherlands at the insistence of the UN and EU, the spokesman responded, “I cannot comment on the question pertaining to her lawyer.” As a review petition is lying with the Supreme Court, the spokesman said he would not comment on the technical and legal matter. As Aasia was flown to Rawalpindi, the foreign media in the early hours of the morning reported that she had flown abroad. No one from the government commented on these reports and there was no denial either. It was only after the newspapers hit the stands later in the morning that the government woke up and blamed the local media for carrying reports of Aasia flying abroad. “I would like to request media friends to confirm the authenticity of the news on the subject matter, as it is a sensitive issue and any misleading news item may result in unwanted situation. I am available for any confirmation of news round the clock and I urge all media houses to confirm and reconfirm any news item with me, especially that having national implications, before publication or dissemination,” said the spokesman.

The hardliners from Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) once again threatened street protests if her acquittal was not reversed, but the Foreign Office spokesman responded: “Her writ is in the court, when that is decided, Aasia Bibi can go anywhere she wants to, she is a free national ... if she wants to go abroad, no harm in it. Right now Aasia Bibi is completely secure at a safe place in Pakistan.”

Two earlier statements had added to the confusion when Aasia’s lawyer Saiful Mulook told a foreign news agency, “She has been freed, I have been told that she is on a plane but nobody knows where she will land.” This is probably where more confusion was added as he probably meant the plane from Multan to Rawalpindi. “Aasia Bibi has left the prison and was transferred to a safe place!” tweeted Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament.

Later, in response to other questions, the spokesman when asked about the release of Mulla Baradar, said that the Afghan Taliban commander was under custody for the last many years after his capture by the Pakistani authorities in a search operation. “His release was facilitated by Pakistan at the US request to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan. This decision was taken following the visit of the US Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation, Ambassador Khalilzad to the region and his meetings with Taliban representatives in Doha. He was released to provide impetus to the peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to pursue reconciliatory efforts to expedite and facilitate the process to our fullest ability,” the spokesman added.

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