Delay in release of Pakistanis from Saudi jails concerns opposition

Updated April 25, 2019

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The Saudi crown prince had ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners when in Pakistan. — APP/File
The Saudi crown prince had ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners when in Pakistan. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Wednesday expressed concern over delays in the release of Pakistani prisoners after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman promised to let them go.

During the National Assembly session, PML-N MNA Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada said he could give examples of Pakistanis in Saudi prisons who have completed their terms but remain behind bars.

Last week, Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Raja Ali Ejaz said the process of releasing Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails was underway and the nation may receive “good news” in Ramazan, which starts in the first week of May.

The Saudi crown prince had ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed him to the Prime Minister’s House and made a “special request” for him to look into the hardships of Pakistani labourers working in the Kingdom, and to “look upon them as your own people”.

In response to the question, Parliamentary Secretary for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Javaria Zafar Aheer told the house that her office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are working together and the release of Pakistani prisoners is underway.

When opposition members asked for the number of Pakistanis released after the crown prince’s statement, Ms Aheer said information was coming in bits and pieces, and the number of released prisoners would be known soon.

She said 3,400 Pakistanis are imprisoned in jails in Saudi Arabia.

To a question from MNA Syed Agha Rafiullah about the number of Pakistanis imprisoned in India and the steps the government is taking for their release, the foreign affairs minister said in a written reply that there are 585 prisoners – 375 civilians and 210 fishermen – currently detained in jails in India.

The ministry, through its high commission in New Delhi, regularly takes up the issue of early repatriation and necessary facilitation, including consular and legal assistance for Pakistani prisoners, with the concerned Indian authorities, the house was told.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019