Here’s what’s happening across the border: Pakistan Television network’s acting MD sacked in ‘begging’ goof-up and government raises the release of terrorist Aafia Siddiqui from US jail. 

Bibi row dominates Pak as media, foreign office tussle over status  

Reports that Asia Bibi had fled the country dominated all major Pakistani media outlets Thursday. News of the Christian mother of five, who was freed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court recently on charges of blasphemy, following which extreme right-wing groups laid siege to public places across Pakistan, was the focus of all headlines.

The Express Tribune reported that Asia Bibi had been released from Multan jail and flown out of Pakistan to an undisclosed destination.  “She has been freed. And is on a plane but nobody knows where she will land,” Asia Bibi’s lawyer Saif-ul-Muluk was quoted by some foreign news outlets as saying.

Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, tweeted early Thursday morning thanking Pakistani authorities for transferring Asia Bibi to a safe place post her release and that he looked forward to welcoming her to the Parliament soon.

Italy and France have offered help to Asia Bibi’s family, Samaa TV reported.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Interior Minister, had tweeted Tuesday that he “will do everything humanely possible to guarantee this young woman’s future”.

But Pakistan’s foreign ministry Thursday morning has rejected media reports saying Asia Bibi is still in the country, Dawn reported. Ministry’s spokesperson Mohammad Faisal at a press briefing said “There is no truth is reports of her leaving the country — it is fake news”.

Information minister Fawad Chaudhry also denied the media reports terming them “fake news”.

PTV’s acting managing director sacked over ‘begging’ fiasco

Pakistan’s ministry of information Tuesday dismissed the acting managing director of state television Pakistan Television Network (PTV) in connection with the ‘begging’ goof-upThe Daily Times has reported.

The action has come a day after the state-run network formally apologised for broadcasting “begging” instead of “Beijing” in its dateline while airing Imran Khan’s speech that he gave to the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China.

The ministry through a notification stated that “the charge of Colonel Hassan Immad Mohammdi (retd) as PTV MD was withdrawn with immediate effect and till further orders”.

Pak gets $1 billion duty free access into China’s market

Pakistan has successfully secured a $1billion duty-free access into China’s market, The Express Tribune reported.

Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, was speaking at a conference Wednesday when he announced this saying that “Beijing has offered this facility in response to Pakistan’s request for duty-free status that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as the Bangladesh is entitled to”.

Dawood also said that the facility would “double the country’s exports within one year”. He credited this development to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “successful” recent visit to China.

The adviser added that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gave his assurance that the amount would be raised to $2 billion in 2019 if Pakistan optimised the intended use of this facility.

Pakistan raises Aafia Siddiqui’s issue with the US

Pakistan government has appealed to the United States to release Aafia Siddiqui, calling on the country to “respect human and legal rights,” reported Dawn.

Siddiqui, a neuroscientist, was in 2010 found guilty on charges of attempted murder and assault of US personnel and was handed an 86-year sentence by a Texas court.

Her incarceration was raised by Pakistan officials during a meeting with Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, at the ministry of foreign affairs.

Mohammad Faisal, the ministry’s spokesperson, said in a statement: “[The] US side has promised to look into our request”. He also said that Pakistan has periodically taken up the matter with US authorities.

New web-series to highlight ‘rishta culture’ in Pakistani society

Director producer Sadia Jabbar’s forthcoming web-series Shameless Proposals is centred on the concept of how Pakistani society commodifies the arranged marriage of a woman when she comes of age, Dawn Images reported.

“The theme for Shameless Proposals revolves around how a woman is made into a product and sold off in the rishta trade in our society,” Jabbar was quoted as saying. “When families come with rishtas, they’re told to accept the girl as is but also told that they’ll do whatever is necessary to appease them.”

The series Jabbar said will explore seven different kinds of arranged marriage proposals. The show will go beyond presenting the conventional characteristics of what a society finds suitable in a boy based on good looks and a handsome salary package.

The producer says that her series will instead address “fundamental issues” such as compatibility between two people which is not usually shown in the context of a “Pakistani urban girl”.

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