Justin Trudeau says Canada in talks with Pakistan over Asia Bibi

PM says Canada is a ‘welcoming country’ and that discussions are being held over fate of freed Christian woman

Photo : AFP/File

 

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has said talks are underway with Pakistan over Asia Bibi, a Christian woman whose acquittal on blasphemy charges against Islam last month sparked mass protests in the South Asian country.

“We are in discussions with the Pakistani government,” Trudeau said in an interview with Agence France Presse in Paris, where he attended an anniversary event marking the end of world war one. His comments were confirmed by a spokesman in Ottawa.

“There is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don’t want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country,” he said.

Bibi, who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan before being released, is in protective custody because her life is in danger from those who disagree with the acquittal. Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, has appealed for help to Britain, Canada, Italy and the United States.

Britain’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has urged the UK to give Bibi asylum. In a letter to his successor, Jeremy Hunt, and home secretary Sajid Javid he is reported to have said: “We cannot allow the threat of violence to deter us from doing the right thing. I do not think it is a dignified position for the UK, given our historic links with Pakistan and the extent of our influence there, to look to others to do what we are allegedly nervous to do ourselves.”

While AFP said Canada’s discussions were about potentially offering Bibi and her family asylum, this was not confirmed by the spokesman in Ottawa.

Islamists have threatened to escalate protests in Pakistan if Bibi is allowed to leave the country. Islamabad has indicated it will bar her from travelling abroad.

Last week, Canada urged Pakistan to ensure Bibi’s wellbeing and foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said the government was “extremely engaged in this issue”.

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. They said she made derogatory remarks about Islam. She is a Protestant and denies committing blasphemy.

Islamists shut down roads in major cities in Pakistan during three days of demonstrations against Bibi’s acquittal at the end of last month.

Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook, fled to the Netherlands earlier this week because of fears for the safety of his family.

Source :

The Guardian

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