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‘Talking to Pakistan over giving asylum to Bibi,’ says Canada PM Justin Trudeau

‘Talking to Pakistan over giving asylum to Bibi,’ says Canada PM Justin Trudeau

Paris: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that his government was holding talks with Pakistan over potentially offering asylum to Asia Bibi, a Christian woman recently freed from prison after her blasphemy conviction was overturned.

“We are in discussions with the Pakistani government,” Mr. Trudeau said in an interview. “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.

Ms. Bibi has been blocked from leaving Pakistan after the overturning of her conviction prompted a wave of protests among Islamist hardliners. She has since been flown to a “safe place” in the country as several governments have offered to grant her family asylum.

Her husband has appealed in particular to Britain, Canada and the U.S., claiming that Ms. Bibi’s life would be in danger as long as she lived in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands Foreign Ministry on Monday denied that its Embassy had closed over security concerns after it gave shelter to Ms. Bibi’s lawyer.

Lawyer in Netherlands

Her lawyer, Saiful Mulook, fled to the Netherlands soon after the verdict, citing death threats. The Dutch government said on Thursday that it had offered temporary shelter to Mr. Mulook.

On Monday, the Dutch government said in a statement that its Embassy in Pakistan, which is in a tightly guarded “diplomatic enclave”, had temporarily halted issuing visas “due to circumstances beyond our control”. Pakistani media reported that the Embassy had been forced to close because of threats. But the Dutch Foreign Ministry said reports of the Embassy’s closure were mistaken. “The Dutch Embassy in Pakistan is open,” the Ministry said.

Also, the Pakistan government on Monday rejected some reports claiming Ms. Bibi had fled abroad, saying that the images on the social media showing her being greeted overseas were “fake”. “Fake news is a big challenge. Asia Bibi is in Pakistan and images of her leaving the country and greeted abroad are fake,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.

He said some media outlets showed irresponsibility by reporting that Ms. Bibi had left the country after her release from the jail.

(with input from AFP)

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