On the 5th of November, Global Human Rights Defence’s (GHRD) attended the press briefing held by Mr. Saif-ul-Malook. Mr. Malook represented Asia Bibi before the Pakistan Supreme Court and has currently sought refuge in The Netherlands.
The Pakistan Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi of Blasphemy charges citing lack of evidence on 31st October 2018. Since the judgement, Pakistan has been rocked by protests from fundamentalist groups who have made open calls for violence against the religious minorities in Pakistan. The protestors demanded that the Pakistan government must include Asia Bibi’s name on the Exit Control List, in the hope that it would prevent her from flying out of the country.
An agreement was reached between the Pakistan government and the protestors on 2nd November which stated that the government would work towards inserting her name into the Exit control list, and also pronounced that the Pakistan government would not oppose a review petition challenging the Supreme Court’s decision.
Mr. Malook was whisked out of Pakistan on 2nd November and flown to Europe in view of the grave danger posed by fundamentalist groups in Pakistan. Mr. Malook said that after the judgement was delivered on 31st October, he drove to the UN office in Pakistan, where he stayed for the next 3 days. After which he was flown to Europe. He added that he wished he could have come to Europe along with Asia Bibi once she was released from the prison. However, he was flown out of Pakistan against his wishes at the insistence of the UN officials due to the grave threat to his life.
Mr. Vivek, GHRD’s Human Rights Officer asked him about Asia Bibi’s name being put on Pakistan’s Exit Control List, he replied that under the legislation, a person’s name can be put onto the Exit control list only if there is a criminal case or a case of criminal fraud pending against the person. Asia Bibi does not have any pending cases against her, so her name cannot be placed on the Exit Control List. Moreover, in so far as the agreement between the government and the protestors was concerned, the agreement has no constitutional or legal validity. The Court is bound to release Asia Bibi in the coming days.
When questioned about Asia Bibi’s asylum in a western country, Mr. Malook stated that Asia Bibi has given him the authority to pick a country of choice on her behalf. However, when he put forward the request to the officials at the UN office in Pakistan, they were unwilling to provide any commitment. He added, that officials were not willing to talk about Asia Bibi’s asylum status with Mr. Malook and they persistently postponed the issue. He reiterated that except for Italy, there has been no country which come forward to provide asylum for Asia Bibi and her entire family.
Mr. Malook’s statement is testament to the fact that the international organizations have not done enough to protect minorities in Pakistan. GHRD emphasis that the UN, EU and the international community needs take immediate action to protect Asia Bibi and the other religious minorities in Pakistan.