Foreign affairs committee expresses concern over execution of Pakistanis abroad

22 Jun 2015

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Chairman Awais Leghari speaking at the Foreign Affairs Committee meeting. —Photo by author
Chairman Awais Leghari speaking at the Foreign Affairs Committee meeting. —Photo by author

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly on Monday expressed serious reservations over the increasing number of executions of Pakistanis in foreign countries.

During a meeting at the Parliament House, the committee recommended the Foreign Office (FO) to ensure the right to fair trial for all Pakistani citizens facing legal proceedings in overseas courts of law.

The committee asked the foreign ministry to provide assistance to under-trial Pakistanis in finding lawyers, translators (if required) and guidance on foreign legal systems. The due course of law must be followed before any Pakistani citizen is convicted anywhere in the world, the committee noted.

Read: Plight of Pakistanis languishing in jails abroad

Chairman Foreign Affairs Committee Awais Leghari called it a "matter of serious concern" that Pakistani labourers abroad were unable to afford defence lawyers in their trials in court.

He demanded that destitute Pakistanis must be provided with all available support in their times of need in foreign countries.

The FO informed the committee that around 8,500 Pakistanis were detained in overseas prisons — most of whom were charged with drug-related crimes.

Pakistanis are routinely executed in Saudi Arabia over drug trafficking. Ten Pakistanis have been executed in Saudi Arabia so far in 2015 as drug and murder convictions account for the bulk of executions in Saudi Arabia.

Know more: Ten Pakistanis executed in Saudi Arabia in 2015

Leghari also expressed his desire that the FO improve its coordination with relevant departments to alleviate drug peddling at home airports. Customs, Anti-Narcotics Force and Immigration and Passport (IMPASS) should be held accountable if a person passes through airports with drugs in his possession, he added.

Trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan should be safeguarded: Foreign Affairs Committee

The committee expressed satisfaction over the current pace of relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the increased security cooperation between the two countries.

Adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz briefed the committee in detail about the ongoing reconciliation process between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The foreign relations committee also recommended that civilian and military leadership of Pakistan, under the command of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, keep very close contact with their Afghan counterparts to prevent a situation where mistrust re-emerges between two nations.

Following an intense debate on the present peace initiative between the two countries, the committee reiterated that the hard-earned trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan should be safeguarded with utmost care. Aziz assured the committee that current Pak-Afghan ties would bear fruit soon.

The committee unequivocally condemned the Taliban-claimed attack on the Afghan Parliament in strongest possible terms.

The members also showed deep concern over human right abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

PM Nawaz's stance on peace in the region steady and stable

The members strongly reacted to India’s acceptance of its role in breaking up Pakistan in 1971. The committee recommended raising the issue at international forums in order to expose the anti-peace policy of India.

It was also noted that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s stance regarding peace in South Asia has been steady and stable inspite of India’s erratic statements coming from the premier's office.

The chairman and other committee members observed that there was little interaction between the incoming parliamentary delegates and the committee. He strongly recommended that Pakistani diplomats should suggest incoming delegates to meet the foreign affairs committees of both Houses when they visit Pakistan.

FO asked to launch awareness campaign regarding MRPs

Furthermore, the committee was informed that there are 2.5 million Pakistanis without Machine Readable Passports (MRP) abroad amid an international deadline for MRPs approaching in November 2015.

Leghari asked the FO to immediately launch an awareness campaign at home and abroad in coordination with the interior ministry regarding this issue.

Concerns raised over Pakistan's absence from Milan International Expo

The committee chairman also raised concerns over Pakistan’s absence from Milan International Expo that holds importance in the international trade and business community.

Leghari asked FO to confirm the news regarding the Italian deputy foreign minister’s offer to celebrate Pakistan Week during the said exhibition and if true, he questioned as to why the FO failed to ensure Pakistan’s participation in this mega international event.

FO's deportation mechanism in shambles: Leghari

The committee also emphasised that the FO, through its embassies and missions abroad, should play a proactive role in coordination with all relevant agencies and organisations to deliver efficient services including provision of Overseas Computerised National Identity Cards, renewal of passports, swift provision of MRPs and transportation of bodies of deceased Pakistanis back to the country in a swift manner.

Leghari noted that the service delivery mechanism of FO has witnessed deterioration over the past decade and the efficiency of Pakistani foreign missions appears to have reduced. He further said that the deportation mechanism of FO was in shambles.

Explanation sought regarding issuance of illegal passports

The committee also took serious notice of the news regarding issuance of thousands of official passports to undeserving and ineligible persons during the period 2008-2013. The committee sought an explanation as to why the cancellation of such illegal passports has not yet been recommended.

The committee further instructed the FO to play its role in restoring the prestige of Pakistani passports abroad which faced a serious blow owing to this scandal. It also demanded a report on how many official passports stand issued presently by Pakistan and how many of them were not in compliance with the rules laid down for this purpose.