ISLAMABAD: The ministry of foreign affairs informed the Senate on Thursday that thousands of Pakistanis were languishing in jails in the Middle East.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi said in reply to a question from Senator Mohsin Aziz that around 594 Pakistanis were still in Indian jails. However, India freed some 420 Pakistani prisoners over the past five years and Pakistan released around 1,997 Indian prisoners during the same period. Moreover, 471 Indians were still interned in Pakistani prisons, he added.

The minister in reply to a query from Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi said that approximately 6,450 Pakistanis were jailed during 2017-18 in Gulf countries.

Roughly, 2,970 Pakistanis were locked up in jails of Saudi Arabia, while those in the United Arab Emirates comes to about 2,600, Mr Qureshi said further explaining that 657 were in jails of Oman, 128 in Bahrain, 54 in Qatar, 38 in Kuwait and three in Yemen.

However, teams from the missions in those countries often visited their detained countrymen to provide assistance and maintain regular contact with their families, foreign minister stated, adding that missions also kept regular contacts with respective jail authorities regarding health, food requirements and legal assistance to prisoners.

To another question of the Senator, Shah Mehmood Qureshi replied that were no networks forcing Pakistani labour to beg in Saudi Arabia.

However, it was observed that Pakistanis were involved in begging in Jeddah, Riyadh, Makkah and Madina, especially in the months of Ramazan and Eidul Azha. They reportedly hover in the vicinity of Masjid-al-Haram and Masjid-e-Nabwi when locals graciously give away alms. Nonetheless, Saudi authorities generally fail in catching them. Nationals of other countries were also involved in begging and it can’t be tagged to Pakistanis only, Mr Qureshi stated.

To yet question, Mr Qureshi said that those Pakistanis employed in Gulf countries on proper working visas don’t face work permit problems, but those who overstayed or indulged in illegal activities do encounter troubles particularly, those overstaying on Haj and Umra visas.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2018

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