Families of Pakistanis jailed abroad seek PM’s help

Updated Nov 13 2018

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Prisoners' families hope PM Khan would live up to promise of protecting rights of overseas Pakistanis. — File photo
Prisoners' families hope PM Khan would live up to promise of protecting rights of overseas Pakistanis. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The families of Pakistanis imprisoned in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states appealed to the prime minister on Monday to bring as many as 11,000 citizens home.

They said the PML-N government had done nothing for the prisoners, but in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first address to the nation he spoke of the rights of overseas Pakistanis and gave them the hope that their loved ones would return soon.

They said that Pakistan lacks a policy under which the state can give citizens legal support, due to which Pakistanis abroad have to rely on lawyers provided by states where they are imprisoned. They also do not get interpreters in their trials.

The families had come to the capital from Mardan, Muzaffarabad, Peshawar and other cities, to urge Mr Khan to take up the matter with Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries so Pakistanis may be brought back and allowed to complete their prison terms in Pakistani jails.

More than 3,000 Pakistanis are currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Since December 2014, Saudi Arabia has executed 80 Pakistani prisoners.

Addressing a press conference, Asma Shafee from Chichawatni, whose brother has been in prison in Saudi Arabia for nine years, urged the government to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities and negotiate and prisoner transfer agreement on an urgent basis.

The families have also written Mr Khan a letter urging him to play his role and halt the imminent executions of Pakistanis on death row in Saudi Arabia.

The letter states that the number of Pakistanis being executed in Saudi Arabia was rising at an alarming rate and media reports have indicated that eight Pakistanis have been executed in the past month.

Available with Dawn, the letter states that the situation has left prisoners in a state of panic and fear, as the consulates responsible for guaranteeing their wellbeing have all but abandoned them and provided them no legal or moral support whatsoever. The cost of this is borne most by women and children who are kept separately in Saudi prisons.

It said this fear is heightened by the fact that Saudi officials have begun a systematic operation to collect information on Pakistani prisoners who are to be executed, and these people are then separated from the general population.

The families said their loved ones have been pillars of emotional and financial support for them their entire lives and have wives and children. They urged the state to take up the matter with Saudi Arabia and bring them back.

The letter states: “You mentioned in your inaugural address that you will listen to the plight of overseas Pakistani prisoners. This is the first time in years that we have felt a semblance of hope. We were also heartened to hear of your recent visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their hand of friendship to your administration. We hope that you continue the process of finalising the prisoner transfer agreement with Saudi Arabia that the government committed to in March this year.”

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2018