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Parliamentarians promise to stand by overseas Pakistani prisoners:Zulfikar Bukhari

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Islamabad:- Zulfikar Bukhari, former Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Citizens and Human Resource Development, on Tuesday said that the government is committed to protecting the rights of all overseas Pakistanis imprisoned abroad.

“In the past few years, the government has successfully repatriated 16,000 Pakistani prisoners detained worldwide.” Bukhari said, while delivering the keynote speech at an event in Islamabad hosted by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and the Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights (PCHR) to commemorate the upcoming International Migrants Day on Dec 18, 2021.

This year, to mark the occasion of International Migrants Day, the event focused on the systemic issues that hamper Pakistan’s ability to protect its citizens abroad – ascertain the will of the parliamentarians, policy makers and duty bearers to protect fellow Pakistanis abroad – and debate the need to provide adequate consular assistance. The first panel at the event was titled “The Road to Safer Migration”, consisting of panelists MNA Syed Fakhar Imam, Senator Dr. Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur, Mustafa Qadri, Athar Waheed, moderated by

Arifa Noor. The second panel was titled “Jailed Abroad”, consisting of panelists Saroop Izaj,Senator Anwaar ul Haq Kakar and Senator Walid Iqbal. The final panel was titled “TheJourney Home”, consisting of panelists Senator Dr. Meher Taj Roghani, MNA Nafeesa I.Khan Khattak Mustafa Haider, Dr. Raheem Awan, Zulqarnain Rafiq.

In November 2020, 41 prisoners from Sri Lanka were successfully repatriated and returned to Pakistan, to serve out the rest of their sentences close to their family and friends. Earlier last year, many prisoners were also repatriated from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Due to the spread of Covid-19 and the fact that prisons are a hotbed for the virus. returning Pakistani citizens imprisoned abroad is imperative. Recently, the Pakistani government has taken up this cause and made efforts to repatriate many Pakistani citizens imprisoned abroad.

The event included a photo exhibit, by photographer Nade Ali and JPP, exploring the lives of overseas prisoners and their families. It was also attended by foreign dignitaries, including the German Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schalgheck, as well as local politicians an parliamentarians.

“The flawed approach we need to remedy is the lack of ownership towards our citizens,” said Senator Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, highlighting the need for an effective consular protection policy protecting all overseas Pakistani citizens.

“In my remaining tenure as Senator, I will do my best to bring about a uniform consular support policy for our overseas Pakistanis,” said Senator Walid Iqbal, speaking at the second panel at the event, titled “Jailed Abroad”. Due to the lack of a uniform consular policy, Pakistani citizens imprisoned abroad lack consular support and adequate legal representation, often suffering due process violations such as long periods of detention without charge or trial. The majority of Pakistani prisoners in foreign jails are arrested for non-lethal crimes such as drug trafficking, theft and violation of immigration laws.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary Foreign Affairs Andleeb Abbas said, “Prime Minister Imran Khan has made commendable efforts to ease the burdens of overseas Pakistani prisoners. Sarah Belal, Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan, adds: “We are extremely grateful to all those in the government working towards this cause. While JPP is heartened by the commitment shown by the government towards the welfare of overseas Pakistani prisoner there still remain over 9,000 Pakistani citizens imprisoned worldwide. We hope that thesolutions discussed and the commitments made today come to bear in the coming new year.

regarding the repatriation of prisoners languishing in foreign jails will continue so that thousands of Pakistanis can return home.”


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