ISLAMABAD: More than 14,000 Pakistani citizens are languishing in prisons across the globe, with 58 per cent of them incarcerated in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on various charges.

On the other hand, 183 Pakistani citizens were executed overseas between 2010 and 2023.

This data was shared by Justice Project Pakistan — an advocacy group that represents vulnerable Pakistan prisoners at home and abroad — which is set to unveil today (Monday) a comprehensive, independent database of Pakistanis imprisoned abroad.

The database provides a country-wise breakdown of prisoners, crime-wise statistics, details of prisoner transfer agreements and consular access and protection.

“In alignment with International Migrant Workers’ Day, the launch of this interactive webpage symbolises a collective commitment to addressing the challenges faced by overseas Pakistani prisoners and advancing the cause of justice on a global scale,” JPP said in a press statement on Sunday.

JPP database shows 58pc of all prisoners incarcerated in UAE, Saudi Arabia

JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal said, “The launch of this webpage is a key step towards evidence-based policies that are likely to ensure that overseas Pakistani prisoners are aware of their consular protection rights and legal options.”

58pc prisoners in UAE, Saudi jails

According to the database, as of December 2023, at least 5,292 Pakistani nationals are imprisoned in the UAE. As per the breakdown, 235 people are in jail on drug charges, 48 are imprisoned on theft/robbery charges, 46 are jailed for ‘immoral activities’, and 21 and 13 are respectively imprisoned for murder and rape.

In Sept last year, the number of prisoners in the UAE was about 1,600 and it gradually rose to 5,292 by Dec this year, according to a graph shared by JPP.

Though Pakistan has a prisoner transfer agreement with the UAE, most Pakistani citizens “are not afforded full access to their legal rights”.

“These migrants find themselves in a foreign system without adequate access to impartial translators and legal counsel. They are at risk of facing the death penalty for a wide range of crimes,” the JPP said. In 2022, the UAE sentenced a Pakistani to death over a murder charge.

Saudi Arabian jails are housing at least 3,100 Pakistani nationals. Out of them, 691 are on drug offences, whereas 180 are imprisoned for theft and robbery charges. 21 are detained over ‘traffic incidents’ whereas 58 are in jail for financial crimes. “Executions of Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia continue, with 4 in 2023.

In total, 7 Pakistanis have been executed since last year,“ said the JPP, adding that Pakistanis in conflict with the law in Saudi Arabia “face a harsh legal system”. “Many of those facing harsh sentences for drug crimes are victims of trafficking themselves, coerced and threatened into smuggling narcotics.”

In Greece, 811 Pakistani nationals are imprisoned, mostly for illegal entry and immigration-related charges, the JPP said, citing data shared by the foreign office with a Senate panel in September last year.

At least, 683 Pakistani citizens are jailed in India for various reasons, including drug smuggling, terrorism, foreigners act, arms act, and illegal stay. In Iraq, 672 citizens are detained.

In Italy, 586 Pakistani nationals are currently in jail for murder, rape, drug trafficking, and financial crimes. Oman’s jails have 540 Pakistani prisoners.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2023

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