IN a travesty of justice, Saudi Arabia on Thursday executed a Pakistani woman. According to Justice Project Pakistan, Fatima Ijaz was the first Pakistani woman to be executed in that country since 2014. She had been incarcerated in the Dhaban prison of Jeddah, facing charges related to drug trafficking. Two other Pakistanis — her husband Mohammad Mustafa, and Abdul Maalik — were also executed the same day as the sentence on Fatima Ijaz was carried out — this, even though Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have friendly ties and are apparently working on a prisoner transfer agreement. “These executions are particularly worrying in the face of the announcement by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made in February this year to release 2,107 Pakistanis imprisoned in the kingdom. The promise, however, has yet to be fulfilled,” the JPP statement said. Only 250 nationals have returned so far — those whose cases for repatriation had already been under consideration. By way of comparison, since the announcement of the crown prince, there has been a spike in the number of executions of Pakistani nationals in the kingdom.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had made a personal request to Mohammad bin Salman for the release of prisoners to which the crown prince had readily agreed. However, the matter continues to be delayed — perilous for those on death row. One of the top executioners in the world, Saudi Arabia has been routinely criticised for its poor human rights record. Trials conducted there have been called unfair and opaque, with foreign prisoners unable to understand the proceedings or to gain access to proper translators and lawyers, and often lacking consular aid. While it is for Saudi Arabia to put its justice system in order, Pakistan must make a more determined effort to convince the Saudi authorities to provide its incarcerated citizens better access to justice, while strengthening consular assistance itself. Other countries have done so and Pakistan could learn from them.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019

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