EXPERIENCES with the criminal justice system may vary from country to country, but in states like Pakistan, where the system is not known for its speedy delivery of justice, individuals often have to languish in detention beyond the duration of their sentences. There have been cases here where people have spent over a decade in jail as their trials have dragged on. Yet there are systems which are more opaque and byzantine than Pakistan’s; for example, in the Gulf nations even flimsy charges can get one hauled away, with the legal process proceeding at a snail’s pace. Therefore, it is of great concern that thousands of Pakistanis are languishing in foreign jails, while the state has no coherent policy to provide them with legal assistance. As reported recently, the foreign affairs ministry told the Lahore High Court that 9,476 Pakistani nationals are imprisoned in 100 countries. The court was hearing a petition by families of prisoners incarcerated in the Gulf states — the majority of Pakistani prisoners abroad are reportedly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In states where the rule of law is enforced and the judicial process is transparent, Pakistanis accused of committing a crime are either exonerated if found innocent, or let off on completion of their sentence. However, as indicated above, in states where official processes are less transparent, the guilty and the accused can spend an inordinate amount of time in jail in miserable conditions. That is why the Lahore High Court’s order to the government to place the consular protection policy before it in two months must be welcomed. Under such a policy, Pakistani missions abroad would be tasked with providing consular access to Pakistani citizens in foreign jails. Such access, whether in the shape of hiring local counsel, or translating court proceedings, can be instrumental in helping Pakistanis aboard secure justice. The government must not delay the formulation of such a policy and should present it before the court within the stipulated period.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2017

Opinion

Blurred boundaries
Updated 10 May 2021

Blurred boundaries

Karachi’s administration and provincial agencies have taken measures that hit the urban poor on a continuous basis.
Sequencing IMF reforms
10 May 2021

Sequencing IMF reforms

It is clear that the revival of and rise in economic growth is becoming a concept alien to the IMF.
‘Darlings of the court’
09 May 2021

‘Darlings of the court’

The public deserves to see and learn from the process by which Justice Isa won after having nearly lost.

Editorial

10 May 2021

Safe havens

THE pull-out of foreign forces from Afghanistan has security ramifications for that country as well as neighbouring...
10 May 2021

Important bills

AT last, there is some movement on critical legislation that appeared to have been put on the back-burner. The...
Al Aqsa clashes
Updated 10 May 2021

Al Aqsa clashes

US policy remains wedded to blind support for the Jewish state.
Updated 09 May 2021

Sharif mission aborted

THE government is in no mood to let PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif leave the country. The opposition leader was...
09 May 2021

Amazon opportunity

THE decision by global e-commerce giant Amazon to add Pakistan to its sellers’ list is expected to unleash ...
09 May 2021

PCB’s parental policy

THE Pakistan Cricket Board’s announcement of its parental support policy earlier this week is praiseworthy, for...