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Diplomacy Human Rights Politics

Pakistanis In Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Fails To Share The list Of Prisoners Despite A Commitment At the Highest Level

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights lamented the poor response of the Saudi government, as it has not yet shared the lists of prisoners to be released under the commitment made by the crown prince in his last visit to Pakistan on a special request made by Prime Minister Imran Khan despite repeated reminders.

The Senate panel was informed on Thursday that 114 Pakistanis in Riyadh and 128 in Jeddah were presently imprisoned due to the pending payment of fines – ranging from Rs8,000 to Rs2.2 million –because of their financial situation.  and the fines begin from 8000 Pakistani rupees and go to 2.2 million. Another 3,000 people are  imprisoned in Saudi Arabia over criminal offences.

While discussing the incarceration of a Pakistani national Mureed Abbas languishing in a Saudi prison for the last three years due to non-payment of fine, Additional Secretary (Middle East) Nadeem Khan told the committee that he went to Saudi Arabia as a driver and had an accident for which he was imprisoned and fined. His sponsor has a claim of 27,000 Saudi riyals, he added.

Khan said the ministry was trying to get information about the kafeel after which they would work on getting the fine waived off.

He said the government was making attempts to provide relief to the prisoners but could not pay all the fines. He also observed that the problems being faced by the Pakistani community abroad were due to the high number of people, a disorganised community and lack of funds.

The committee members remarked that the expatriates should be trained to behave well when outside the country with a fund for paying their fines.

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They said the human rights ministry maintained a fund to pay for the prisoners who were from poor segments of society but it was permissible for only within the country. The committee considered working out a proposal of bringing an amendment in the Pakistan Penal Code or any other relevant law to bring the overseas prisoners also under its ambit.

The panel was informed that there was a similar fund maintained by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and a welfare fund maintained by missions abroad but they were for different purposes and could not be used for payment of fines.

The committee decided to hold a briefing on the fund of human rights ministry and to write to provincial governments to feel their responsibility towards contributing to this fund.

The ministry was also directed to call an inter-ministerial meeting for understanding the available resources and formulate a mechanism.

The Ministry of Interior told the committee that such an inter-ministerial committee was already working in the Foreign Office, the recommendations of which could be seen.

Later, the committee decided to call the members of the committee in next meeting along with their recommendations.

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