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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday sought replies from three federal ministries -- Foreign Affairs, Interior and Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development -- about Pakistani citizens on death row in Iranian jails.

Justice Shahid Waheed was hearing a petition filed by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) seeking details of Pakistanis imprisoned in Iran and the actions taken by the government in order to get their death sentences reviewed under recently amended Iranian drug laws.

Barrister Sarah Belal appeared on behalf of the JPP and told the court that in January 2018, the Supreme Court of Iran announced that those sentenced to death for drug crimes would have their sentences commuted only if they apply for such a commutation.

She argued that the Pakistanis sentenced to death in Iran under previous standards faced imminent execution if applications for review were not filed on their behalf. She pointed out that the federal government had yet to submit a response to the petition which was filed by JPP four months ago.

The counsel said new Iranian drug laws entitled prisoners sentenced to death under previous standards to file reviews, however, the ministry of foreign affairs and Pakistan embassy in Tehran had not taken any steps to facilitate Pakistani prisoners.

She asked the court to direct the government to make immediate and forceful representations, as required by law, on behalf of Pakistani citizens on death row in Iran, to secure reviews of their death sentence under the new amendment and to ensure their extradition to Pakistan. The judge adjourned further hearing till Sept 11 and sought replies from the ministries.

Meanwhile in another petition filed by the JPP on behalf of Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, Justice Ayesha A. Malik allowed early hearing of the application and set Sept 17 next date.

Barrister Belal told the court that there had been a surge in executions of Pakistanis carried out by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She said Saudi Arabia executed 15 Pakistani within first eight months this year for various crimes.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2018