Take heart, no truth in reports of Asia leaving country: FO

Fawad laments ‘irresponsible’ behaviour of some media outlets

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shamim mehmood

ISLAMABAD

Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Thursday denied reports that Asia Bibi had left Pakistan, saying the recently acquitted Christian woman was still in the country.

“There is no truth in reports of her leaving the country — it is fake news,” Dr Faisal told media. Asia Bibi was released from Multan jail last night — more than 10 days after the Supreme Court overturned her conviction and death sentence.

Shortly after the FO’s clarification, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry called out the “irresponsible” behaviour of some media outlets for running the news of Asia Bibi allegedly leaving the country without “confirmation”.

“It has become a norm to publish fake news for sake of headlines,” Chaudhry said on Twitter. “#AsiaBibi case is sensitive issue; it was extremely irresponsible to publish news of her leaving the country without confirmation. I strongly urge section of media to act responsible.”

The statements by FO and Fawad come on the heels of news reports from a day earlier which stated that Asia Bibi had left Multan’s women prison and was being flown to an “unknown destination”.

This particular quote, attributed to Asia Bibi’s lawyer Saiful Malook, led to speculation that she had left the country.

However, media reports stated that Asia Bibi was brought to Islamabad onboard a special aircraft. The aircraft carrying Asia Bibi landed at the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport of Islamabad adjacent to Nur Khan Air Base, said sources. From there, she was taken to an undisclosed place in Islamabad amid tight security. The authorities are keeping her movement and whereabouts secret for security reasons.

Asia Bibi’s acquittal had sparked countrywide protests by religious parties and groups. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) is expected to hold a ‘million march’ in Karachi against the Supreme Court’s verdict today.

Soon after the Supreme Court’s verdict, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) blocked roads in major cities of the country for three days, condemning the judges who had acquitted Asia Bibi, the prime minister and the army chief.

The TLP had called off the protests after striking a deal with the government. Under the five-point agreement, the government said it would not object to the review petition filed against the acquittal of the Christian woman and would “initiate a legal process” to place her name on the Exit Control List.

The agreement was signed by Minister for Religious Affairs Sahibzada Dr Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja, TLP patron-in-chief Pir Afzal Qadri and its central Nazim-i-Aala Waheed Anwar.

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