ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, Pakistan stopped on Sunday implementation of agreements on swapping convicted prisoners with various countries.
“Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has stopped the ministries of interior and foreign affairs as well as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from making any progress in cases under any such agreement till the formulation of a new and transparent policy,” says a brief announcement by the interior ministry.
The country is reported to have entered into prisoners’ swap treaties with several countries, including the UK, UAE, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Spain.
The decision has been taken after reports that a number of convicted persons, who had been brought to Pakistan from jails in some foreign countries, managed to get themselves freed with the help of government officials without completing their sentence in the country, which was mandatory under the treaties.
“Investigations carried out on the directives of the interior minister reveal that a number of Pakistanis, who had been convicted of committing heinous crimes in other countries and brought back to Pakistan under extradition treaties, were illegally released from jails in connivance with officials of the interior ministry and provincial governments,” says the announcement.
The interior minister has also ordered that an inquiry into such cases be completed in one week and the officials responsible for it be arrested. He said the officials who had earned a bad name for the country deserved no concession at all.
Earlier this month, the FIA had arrested in Ecuador a Pakistani convicted by a British court in Feb 2004 for murdering a man in the UK. The interior ministry claimed that other culprits in the case had already been arrested in the UAE and Pakistan.
The arrested man, Rizwan Habib, had been sentenced to life in prison at Old Bailey for having beaten to death the son of a Pakistani business tycoon on Dec 16, 2001, and dumping his body in a river in Surrey and stealing his identity documents.
Habib and his gang then went on a spending spree in Las Vegas, running up bills of thousands of pounds on the victim’s credit cards before heading to Australia, Dubai and Canada.
The British police tracked him down and he was arrested in Canada and deported to the UK.
Under an agreement on exchange of prisoners signed with Britain, Habib and his accomplices were to complete the rest of their sentence in Pakistan, but they were fraudulently released days after having been brought to the country.
On the orders of Chaudhry Nisar, the officials of the interior ministry and Punjab police who had helped in the illegal release of the convicts were arrested.
The agreement signed by the PPP government in 2010 was, however, abolished by the UK in 2012 after the fraudulent release of the convicts.
The British government restored the agreement last year after the measures taken by the interior minister.
Published in Dawn March 16th , 2015