Prisoners of injustice

September 14, 2019

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ACCORDING to Justice Project Pakistan, there are approximately 11,000 Pakistani citizens imprisoned in foreign countries. Out of these, the vast majority are in the Middle East, with 3,400 trapped in Saudi Arabian prisons. Many do not see freedom again, as they languish in such prisons for the remainder of their lives, never to see or hear from their loved ones again. The most unfortunate ones have their lives brutally snatched through the harshest forms of execution, as Saudi Arabia continues to practise public beheadings for certain transgressions on its soil. The JPP reports that 26 Pakistanis were executed in the kingdom this year alone. The latest victim of the Saudi state’s criminal ‘justice’ system was a labourer named Muhammad Imran, who was held in Jeddah’s Shumaisi Prison for nearly eight years until he met his tragic end. Like many before him, Imran was detained for allegedly carrying drugs with him at the Jeddah airport. Earlier, a Pakistani married couple were also executed by Saudi authorities for allegedly trying to smuggle drugs into the country.

While it may be the right of the Saudi authorities to formulate their own laws to govern their country, there is evidence that the majority of foreign prisoners do not receive a fair trial or get the right to adequate legal representation; and often judicial proceedings are carried on in a language they don’t understand. Additionally, most Pakistanis travelling to the Middle East are simply poor working-class people looking for employment in the oil-rich nations, while others are just trying to perform their religious obligations, before getting swindled by intermediaries into drug trafficking, through deception or force. During his official visit to Pakistan in February, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman promised to release 2,107 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi jails. So far, only a handful of them have returned. The remaining inmates are still waiting to see that promise fulfilled — a matter of life and death for them.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2019