Aasia Bibi “could be flown out of Pakistan any moment”, lawyer tells Arab News

This undated file photo shows Multan district jail. On Wednesday night, Pakistani Christian woman Aasia Bibi was freed from Multan jail, where she has spent 8 years, and flown to a government facility in the capital Islamabad (Photo courtesy: Punjab Prisoners website)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Aasia Bibi “could be flown out of Pakistan any moment”, lawyer tells Arab News

  • Christian woman freed from jail a week after SC ruled in her favor in blasphemy case
  • Foreign Office denies report, terming it as “fake news”

ISLAMABAD: In what could be the defining moment ending an eight-year ordeal for a Pakistani Christian woman falsely accused of blasphemy, her lawyer said on Thursday that she was finally free and could be “flown out of Pakistan any moment”.
“Aasia Bibi has been released and is now in the government’s custody. She may be flown out of Pakistan any moment,” Saiful Mulook, Bibi’s lawyer, said in an exclusive interview to Arab News.
However, denying local media reports, Foreign Office Spokesperson, Dr Mohammad Faisal said on Thursday that Bibi was still in Pakistan. “There is no truth to reports of her leaving the country — its fake news,” he said.
The statement contradicts news reports from a day earlier – quoting Mulook -- which said that Bibi had been released from the women’s wing of a prison in Multan and was being flown to an “unknown destination”. However, reliable sources confirmed to Arab News that Bibi had been brought to Islamabad onboard a special plane which landed at the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport, adjacent to the Nur Khan Air Base.
Bibi, 51, was on death row for the past eight years after a lower court found her guilty in 2010. However, citing a lack of credible evidence in the case, the Supreme Court (SC) overturned the ruling last week, acquitting Bibi of all charges. The decision led to massive protests across the country, spearheaded by a far-right religious party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), who set several conditions for calling off the protests. Prime among these was that the SC overturns its verdict and places Bibi on the country’s Exit Control List (ECL).
Bibi’s case gained international prominence after a senior politician, who was supporting Bibi throughout her ordeal, was killed for criticizing the country’s blasphemy laws. In January 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own guard for speaking in favor of Bibi.
The case came under the spotlight once again following the protests of the past few days which enraged devout Christians around the world and led to several countries offering her asylum. In a tweet to Pakistan’s authorities last night, European parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani thanked the government for moving Bibi to a safe place.
Mulook left the country fearing for his life -- following the SC verdict -- and might seek political asylum in the Netherlands.


OIC countries seek to be dependent on their own halal vaccines

Updated 56 min 16 sec ago
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OIC countries seek to be dependent on their own halal vaccines

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata, JAKARTA: Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are forging a way to become self-reliant on vaccines and medicines to the Islamic nations as representatives of their respective heads of national medicine regulatory authorities are meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the first time.
Penny Lukito, chairwoman of Indonesia’s National Agency of Drug and Food Control, said the first-ever meeting, which was called by Indonesia and kicked off on Wednesday, was timely since the dire health situation due to the lack of access to medicines and vaccines in some Islamic countries is worrying, especially in the least developing ones and those mired in conflicts.
“The capacity and ability of pharmaceutical industries in the Islamic world to produce essential medicines and vaccines are still at low proportions,” Lukito said in her opening speech. “We can’t let this situation continue unabated.”
This meeting, therefore, serves as a platform to identify gaps and opportunities for improving medicines' regulatory capacity, promoting public health and how to advance the pharmaceutical industry in OIC countries, said OIC Assistant Secretary-General for Science and Technology, Muhammad Naeem Khan.
“Overdependence on imported medicine and vaccines has had an adverse impact on the provision of health care in some OIC countries, including the refusal by some communities to use such medicines and vaccines,” Khan said in his opening remarks.
“It has also made many member states vulnerable to counterfeit and substandard medicines,” he added.
President of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority Hisham Saad Aljadhey said the outcome of this meeting will be very fruitful for individuals living in OIC countries in terms of availability and safety of medication.
“We have issues such as high prices of medication and building capacity," Aljadhey told Arab News on the sidelines of the two-day meeting. "We need to build a medicine regulatory agency within OIC countries which will focus on guidelines in accordance with the international ones and include good manufacturing practices for medication, review of scientific evidence, and to follow up on the safety of the product.”
Of the 57 OIC member states, only seven are vaccine producers and only a few produce export-quality medicines, while many countries, including the least developed ones -– many of whom are OIC member states -– still have to rely heavily on imported vaccines and medicines.
Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Osama bin Mohammed Al-Shuaibi said Islamic countries need to collaborate on vaccine products because there are halal and non-halal vaccines, and vaccines would have to be approved by the ulema council.
However, he said Islam is very open and even if the medicine is not halal, people should take it to prevent death or illness to themselves and others.
“You can’t say this is not halal and your child is dead. This meeting will build more trust between Islamic countries to start producing their own medicines which are halal, if there is only a non-halal one. We try to find something halal, but if there is not, we have to have the medicine, whatever it is,” he told Arab News.
Febrian Ruddyard, the director general for multilateral cooperation at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, said the meeting would produce a joint statement dubbed the Jakarta Declaration, which reaffirms the OIC countries’ commitment to strengthen the regulatory framework on medicines and vaccines.
“Health problems could disperse and cause other problems if we don’t regulate them. We can’t be healthy on our own. We have to stay healthy together,” he said.