Thursday Feb 07, 2019
LONDON: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in an interview to BBC said Asia Bibi was in Pakistan and a free person.
Last month, the Supreme Court rejected a review petition challenging the top court’s decision to acquit Asia Bibi. Her blasphemy conviction had been overturned by the Superme Court in October last year in a landmark decision, but she had remained in prison as the government negotiated with protesters from religious groups — led by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) — who blockaded major cities and demanded her immediate execution.
On November 2, the government had agreed in a deal with the protesters to follow due process to impose a travel ban on Bibi, and not to challenge the review appeal in the Supreme Court.
“She [Asia Bibi] is a free person. The Supreme Court has found her innocent. They have acquitted her,” Qureshi said during the interview.
The foreign minister said Asia Bibi was free to leave, however, the government would protect her for the rest of her life is she choose to remain in Pakistan. “We have asked friends around the world if they want to help her.”
He added that quiet diplomacy was the way forward if someone wanted to help Asia Bibi.
Speaking on the protests which took place after her acquittal, the foreign minister said clear action had been taken against those who challenged the writ of the state. “People were taken into custody and put behind bars.”
The minister stressed that the government’s policy was that the blasphemy law should not be misused by anyone.
On the issue of Kashmir, Qureshi said Pakistan wanted peace in the region but was concerned about deteriorating human rights conditions in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK).
“The Indian’s are not managing their side well. Based on two reports, the UN Commission’s report and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir’s report have highlighted the atrocities and human right violations.”
Responding to criticism on Pakistan, the minister said “we have opened up our side of Kashmir. Any British citizen who wants to visit our side of Kashmir is welcome to do so. We have nothing to hide.”
On Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process, Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan from the beginning had stated that there was no military solution to the conflict. “What is required is a negotiated political settlement. Now the Trump administration express an interest to engage. Pakistan facilitated and we are facilitating and those talks have been constructive.”
“The Afghan government realises that there is a considerable part of the country which is not under their control. So new realism is setting in and a more realistic approach is being adopted.”
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said there was a reset taking place in the relationship between Pakistan and the United States. “The Americans have more confidence in this government.”
When asked about the Director of US National Intelligence telling a Senate Committee that Pakistan still providing a safe haven to terrorists, the minister replied: “Come and see for yourself the dramatic improvement which has taken place on our side of the border. A lot needs to be done on the other side. If there are any safe havens they are on the other side. We have cleared our side.”
Qureshi also said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was ready to meet US President Donald Trump. “Imran Khan will meet anyone if it’s Pakistan’s national interest.”