An article in the Huffington Post has incorrectly reported statements in their recent story about Asia Bibi and ascribed them to Wilson Chowdhry, something we find very disturbing. The article entitled: “Asia Bibi, Pakistani Christian Tried For Blasphemy, Headed To Canada: Family Friend” contains comments that Mr Chowdhry did not say. (click here)
The comments reported in the article were not from Mr Chowdhry, and seemed pieced to together from other sources. We are aware that more than one Huffington Post reporter was working on the Asia Bibi story and they were collaborating on it, because we were told this by the interviewer from Huffington Post (Canada), who was a different reporter than the one who spoke with Mr Chowdhry.
British Pakistani Christian Association President Wilson Chowdhry has asked Huffington Post reporter Amardeep Singh several times for the story to be corrected and thus far it has not been amended, and we were told the editor has repeatedly refused. The printed article seems incongruent with what Mr Chowdhry said in any conversation with them.
Mr Chowdhry also had several other interviews with other media outlets with which he has more experience and a longer relationship with and none of them reported comments he made in interviews on and around the same date the way the Huffington Post did. That is because he did not say the particular comments that were written in the Huffington Post.
Wilson Chowdhry has been in contact with the family either directly or via other contacts over the course of this time though they have had to go dark at times for their safety.
To be clear no one needs to know exactly where they are at this time, people generally want to know that they are safe and free. Only a handful of high level people would know the precise time when they were or will be transported out of Pakistan.
Wilson Chowdhry and his daughter Hannah spent time with Ashiq Masih, Asia Bibi’s husband and Eisham one of their daughters, when they were in England. Juliet Chowdhry, Wilson Chowdhry’s wife, and her father also met Ashiq Masih many years ago in Pakistan.
BPCA is just one of the charities that has helped Asia Bibi and her family over the years – we were the ones who released the video of Ashiq Masih appealing for asylum. They reached out to us to communicate their desire for asylum in western country and some of the difficulties they were having, and we did as we were asked.
All of us at BPCA care profoundly about their wellbeing, however Mr Chowdhry never used the term “close family friends” to describe their relationship to any media outlet that inquired.
BPCA has a professional relationship with Asia Bibi and her family, as it pertains to funding and assisting them
Our Canadian representative alerted us that there was an article in Canada’s National Post sighting “a close family friend” saying that the family is in Canada that mentioned this information but to be very clear BPCA has never been contacted by the National Post for a comment.
We do not know who the source of the information reported in the National Post. Furthermore the National Post later updated the article to clarify that the reports were not confirmed by the Canadian government. (click here)
Our UK, Canadian and Australian branches have all been extremely active on Asia Bibi’s case and involved in advocacy for asylum – any statements made by one branch or another would not have spoken to the location of Asia Bibi. Both Canada, and Australia had expressed a willingness to grant them asylum. We spoke positively about both countries, and encouraged them both to made a clear and definite offer of asylum.
It is our belief that if Asia and Ashiq want their exact whereabouts known they will let everyone know, and that this their decision to make. In the video appeal for asylum Ashiq said they wanted a normal life. Everyone should respect that.
We understand where their final destination was to be but, movements and decisions can always change as their safety and security is paramount.
BPCA had our own understanding that the daughters of Asia Bibi were confirmed to be in Canada but it was publicly declared via a Daily Telegraph article. The articles states that they where in that country, and that this had been confirmed through diplomatic sources. (click here). The Daily Telegraph , and the first rendering of the National Post article both publicly identified Canada, as providing safety to the family.
“When I saw the Huffington Post Article I messaged the lady who interviewed me and told her that Mr Chowdhry’s name was spelled incorrectly.
“I then sent the article to Wilson so he could see it as I was bemused by the contents that the Huffington Post reported in the article, because it sounded much closer to what was said initially in the National Post by the phantom ‘close family friend’ than how we would answer those questions.”
It seems that there has been a false nexus formulated between Mr Chowdhry and to this person in the National Post and other articles referring to the “close family friend” that has happened because of information being inappropriately patched together.
There have been many inquiries regarding the whereabouts of Asia Bibi’s family to both the charities and governments around the world.
Understandably it is difficult to be patient with an innocent woman still being restricted in her movements and prevented from getting on with her life because of the outcry of extremists. However, the general belief among the world leaders who have registered concern is that we needed to let the judicial process run its course. That process has successfully confirmed her acquittal and now we are waiting to hear that she has landed in a new safe place.
Keri-Lynn Gibbs BPCA representative in Canada
“For example, I was also asked by a reporter at Huffington Post (Canada) on about the 8th January whether I was in touch with the family and I told her that I have not personally spoken with them directly. I said this because, only one team member handles communication with them.
“I told them that I personally did not know the exact whereabouts of the family.
“I understood they were in a safe place and not under the pressure of relocating from house to house as they once were.
“Basically the Pakistani government has needed to keep her under lock and key just to keep Asia Bibi safe, but first things first she needed to be able to leave before they all can benefit from any offer of asylum. The real benefit is that they are all together as a family.
BPCA has been in contact with the family of Asia Bibi since the acquittal and spent time with them this fall during a speaking tour in the UK just before the appeal was heard. As mentioned in previous articles that in September Wilson Chowdhry and his daughter Hannah met Ashiq Masih and his daughter Eisham and the two young women presented together at an event highlighting Christian persecution in Pakistan.
Ms Gibbs explained:
“BPCA involve ourselves in a lot of intense and time pressured communications work and I actually take great pains to not know unnecessary information. If it is unnecessary for me then it goes to follow that is only necessary to those in direct contact with those concerned.
“After the judicial review was approved Asia Bibi’s husband appealed for asylum to several western countries. BPCA was entrusted with this passionate plea for assistance and I personally uploaded it for the world to see.
As to whether there were any takers who are willing to offer Asia Bibi and her family asylum, she said further:
“What I communicated in my very brief interview to the Huffington Post was that we know about countries such as Australia and Italy who have offered asylum, and Canada has exhibited that openness as well. I mentioned PM Trudeau said during his Remembrance Day visit to France that she would be welcome to apply for asylum in Canada.”
“We were aware that several countries are willing to open their doors to the entire entourage, but ultimately they would not all be truly free to live their lives until Asia Bibi was allowed to freely exit the country. After all this beleaguered family has been through they deserve to be together.”
UPDATE: Huffington Post has added the following apology to their article:
“Editor’s Note: This article initially attributed a number of statements to a representative of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry. After publication, Chowdhry and another representative of the group alerted HuffPost to problems with those attributions. An internal review determined that HuffPost UK did not accurately report his remarks and represented paraphrases of some comments as direct quotes. HuffPost has updated the article to verify our reporting and has removed the erroneous statements. HuffPost apologises to Mr. Chowdhry and to our readers.”
BPCA thanks them for their attention to this matter.