LHC seeks list of prisoners released from Saudi jails

Updated February 29, 2020

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The judge was hearing a petition by JPP on behalf of 10 Pakistanis on death row in the Gulf countries. — Creative commons
The judge was hearing a petition by JPP on behalf of 10 Pakistanis on death row in the Gulf countries. — Creative commons

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday instructed the foreign ministry to submit an updated list of Pakistani prisoners repatriated from jails in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Justice Ayesha A. Malik sought a report on the efforts made to ensure repatriation of the prisoners since Feb 18, 2019, when the Saudi crown prince had announced immediate release of 2,107 Pakistanis.

The judge was hearing a petition by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) on behalf of 10 Pakistanis on death row in the Gulf countries. The petition sought enforcement of the fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens facing execution in jails across the Middle East. Further hearing was adjourned for a month.

On Nov 12 last year, a list of 579 Pakistani prisoners released from the kingdom was submitted by the ministry to the court. An analysis of the list revealed that less than five per cent of the prisoners had returned after the crown prince’s announcement. The rest had been repatriated before that.

A research by the JPP shows that the number of overseas prisoners has increased by 26 per cent since 2014. An increase in number of Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi Arabia was also recorded during the same period.

According to another report submitted earlier by the interior ministry to the court, nearly 11,000 Pakistanis are languishing in foreign jails.

JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal said the lack of clarity on the repatriation of prisoners from Saudi Arabia was disappointing. She said the fasting month of Ramazan was less than two months away and it was an opportunity for the government to increase its efforts to bring back the Pakistanis waiting for the fulfillment of the promise made by the crown prince.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2020