Netherlands Temporarily Halts Issuance of Visas in Pakistan; Embassy Still Operational in Islamabad
Pakistan National Flag (Image used for representational purpose only) (Photo Credits: Pixabay)

Islamabad, November 12:  Netherlands has temporarily halted the issuance of Visas in Pakistan. Last week, Netherlands closed its embassy in Islamabad for two days for renovation work. Reports had surfaced earlier in the day by the Pakistan media claiming that the embassy was shut down due to security threats to avoid any untoward incident after Amsterdam reportedly offered to provide a visa to Asia Bibi after her acquittal by the Supreme Court. However, the country’s foreign office (FO) denied such reports and stated that she is still in Pakistan with her family.

Her acquittal in the blasphemy case triggered countrywide protests from religious groups and death threats from hardliners. Protestors led by Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups had blocked major highways and roads in different parts of the country. The 47-year-old mother of four, was found guilty of insulting Islam during an argument with three Muslim women. She was sentenced to death in 2010.

While Asia Bibi’s case is the second purported reason for the alleged deterioration in Pakistan-Netherlands ties, hostility was earlier suspected when the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte refused to take action against a far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders who planned to conduct a cartoon competition where the participants will draw caricatures of Muslim Prophet Muhammed. The contest, which was later cancelled, drew massive protests across Pakistan with dozens of seminaries and conservative groups calling severing all diplomatic ties with Netherlands.