Pakistanis In Foreign Jails
Foreign Affairs Adviser on Foreign Policy to the Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz informed the Senate that about 8,000 Pakistanis are languishing in different prisons all over the world. The latest figures and information related to Pakistanis interned in various prisons worldwide came in reply to a query raised by the JUI-F member, Naeema Kishwar Khan, about Pakistanis detained in Saudi Arabia, as well as about steps taken by government for their repatriation.
Most of the Pakistanis incarcerated outside Pakistan are jailed in Saudi prisons where the number is 2,400, including women and children, for offences of drug smuggling, rape, and theft. According to the Agreement of Consular Access signed on May 1, 2008 between Pakistan and India the two countries have to share the list of prisoners lodged in their jails with each other twice a year, on January 1 and July 1 respectively. Around 250-300 Pakistanis and Indians are languishing in each other’s prisons; these also include fishermen who violated the laws concerning Indian territorial waters. Moreover, Pakistan and China had signed a treaty — Exchange of Prisoners Agreement — on reciprocal basis last year during the official trip of the Chinese president to Pakistan. To date nothing is available on record that provides information as to how many prisoners of China in Pakistan and/or Pakistani prisoners in China have been released under the signed treaty. About 425-450 Pakistani citizens are interned in various jails of China. Most of them are imprisoned for the offence of drugs smuggling, human trafficking and overstay.
Moreover, seven Chinese are serving sentences in Pakistani jails. In Iran and Bangladesh, approximately 252 Pakistani prisoners are in jail for the offence of violation of immigration laws, overstay, and border crossing. Aziz told the Senate that 69 Pakistanis — involved in sexual offences, stealing, drug trafficking and homicidal attacks — were detained in different jails of African countries; 44 Pakistanis are detained in South Africa for rape, robbery, fraud, forgery, murder and kidnapping; nine are detained in Tanzania and seven in Kenya in drug-related cases; three are incarcerated in Uganda on double-murder charges and one each is jailed in Libya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Senegal for various crimes.
The information advanced by the top aide of the prime minister of Pakistan raises the question: is there any effective uniform policy or scheme for those who are imprisoned in various prisons of foreign countries? To me it appears that there is no such effective policy at all; if there is any that must be completely ineffective. Government of Pakistan seems least interested in drafting an effective policy for helping its citizens detained in foreign jails. Pakistan does have an Exchange-of-Prisoner Treaty with 30 countries, including the U.S.A., Australia, Egypt, France, Greece, Iran, Iraq, the UAE, Italy, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yugoslavia. However, it has no uniform policy for handling the return of Pakistanis from jails aboard.
There are many women and children detainees who were falsely implicated into criminal offences for many years. Government of Pakistan has been unable to persuade Saudi Arabia for the release of Pakistani detainees on regular basis. Of the 90 executions carried out in Saudi Arabia in 2014, 21 were of Pakistanis, the highest number of any foreign country, according to the Amnesty International. The Senate of Pakistan was also informed that government is taking steps to facilitate detainees interned aboard, and that Pakistani consulate general regularly pays official visits to provide legal assistance to Pakistani detainees. Government also provides emergency travelling documents to those who have served their sentence in order to bring them back to Pakistan. Aziz further added that remissions in sentences are sought on a special occasions like in Ramzan, on Eid, and national holidays.
It is said that government shall take reasonable steps to ensure peaceful and immediate return of those inmates who have served their sentence. Also, the under-trial inmates shall be given free legal assistance aboard by the Pakistan Mission in that country. Government must draft an extensive and uniform policy dealing with prisoners detained in foreign prisons. It is not out of place to mention that Pakistan government on regular basis releases facts and figures of Pakistani citizens incarcerated in various jails of the world, but despite that the data available on record with regards to number of Pakistani prisoners in foreign jails is slightly vague.
This article was previously published in Daily Times and is being republished here with permission.
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