U.N. denies it played any role in coercing Saif-ul-Mulook to leave Pakistan
A Pakistani lawyer of a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy who claimed he was forced to leave his country for the Netherlands by the U.N. and E.U. on Tuesday said he wanted to remain on Dutch soil and hinted he would seek political asylum.
Saif-ul-Mulook fled to The Netherlands from Pakistan after violent protests erupted over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the conviction of Aasia Bibi who was on death row. At a news conference in The Hague on Monday, the lawyer said he was “put on a plane against my wishes” even though he had refused to leave the country without ensuring that his client was out of prison.
But in an about turn a day later, he said: “If The Netherlands as a country which defends human rights, does not help me or shelter me, I would prefer to return to Pakistan to be assassinated,” according to local media.
A Dutch foreign ministry spokesman told AFP it would review if Mulook could be extended “temporary assistance.”
The U.N. earlier on Tuesday denied coercing the lawyer. “The U.N. in Pakistan extended its assistance to Mr. Mulook at his request and did not force him to leave the country against his wishes, nor can the U.N. force someone to leave Pakistan against his or her will,” said U.N. spokesperson Eri Kaneko.
Mulook on Monday said he contacted a U.N. official in Islamabad after the outbreak of clashes. “And then they [the U.N.] and the European nation ambassadors in Islamabad, they kept me for three days and then put me on a plane against my wishes,” he said.
Aasia Bibi spent nearly a decade on death row after being accused of blasphemy following a dispute with fellow villagers over drinking from the same bowl of water. The charge is an inflammatory one in Muslim-majority Pakistan. But she remains in Pakistan after Prime Minister Imran Khan struck a deal with the Islamist hardliners behind the protests to bar her from leaving until a final court appeal is heard.
The lawyer had previously told AFP before his departure on Saturday that he was leaving because “in the current scenario, it’s not possible for me to live in Pakistan.”