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Shireen raises plight of Pakistani prisoners in foreign jails with ICRC

Updated March 12, 2019

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Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari stresses need for resolving the issue of Pakistani prisoners abroad and protection of their rights. — Online/File
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari stresses need for resolving the issue of Pakistani prisoners abroad and protection of their rights. — Online/File

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari has drawn the attention of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the plight of Pakistani prisoners in jails of foreign countries despite completing their sentences. She also took up the issue of the recent killing of Pakistani prisoner Shakirullah in India.

Talking to Head of Delegation of ICRC in Pakistan Reto Stocker here on Monday, the minister stressed the need for resolving the issue of Pakistani prisoners abroad and protection of their rights.

Dr Mazari apprised the ICRC head of circumstances in which the Pakistani prisoner, Shakirullah, was beaten up and tortured to death by inmates of the central jail in Indian city of Jaipur on Feb 20 in the aftermath of the Pulwama incident in the India-held Kashmir.

According to Shakirullah’s family, he was arrested in 2003 after he mistakenly crossed the border.

Pakistan had lodged a strong protest with India over the incident. The Foreign Office in a press release on Feb 21 had stated that they had been inf­orm­ed that Shakirullah had suffered injuries following a “scuffle” between fellow inmates in the television room of the jail, “which proved fatal”. The FO noted that as per some Indian media reports, Shakirullah was lynched.

Ms Mazari informed the ICRC delegation that Shakirullah was tortured and killed under state patronage in the Indian jail, adding that India had failed to protect right to life of the Pakistani prisoner.

According to an official announcement issued by the Ministry of Human Rights, during the meeting, Ms Mazari said they were taking pragmatic steps to ensure protection and provision of human rights of Pakistani prisoners in foreign countries’ jails. She also briefed the ICRC delegation about the steps which the government had already taken in this regard.

The human rights minister said that the government was focussed on the imp­lementation of the existing laws and also paying attention to devise a new legislation for the purpose. She also informed the ICRC team that they were working on various new legislations, including the anti-torture and custodial death bill. She said that these bills would soon be tabled in the parliament.

The minister also stated that her ministry was also building up human rights-related data base.

The ICRC head of delegation appreciated the endeavours of the present government, especially the Ministry of Human Rights, for the protection and promotion of human rights and assured his full support and cooperation in the cause and protection of human rights.

A source in the ministry later told Dawn that another similar meeting with the ICRC officials was expected in the next couple of days in which the ministry would share complete data about Pakistani prisoners languishing in jails in foreign countries.

A report submitted by the interior ministry in the Lahore High Court in September last year had revealed that there were 11,803 overseas Pakistanis in foreign jails.

The report stated that statistics of overseas Pakistanis jailed abroad were obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the light of a direction issued by the court.

As per the report, 2,937 Pakistanis were jailed in Saudi Arabia, 1,842 in Greece, 582 in India, 177 in Afghanistan, 242 in China, 188 in Iran, and 226 in Malaysia.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2019