LAHORE: As they waited for a transfer back home, four Pakistani prisoners in Thailand committed suicide and another four died of illnesses, despite having been eligible for transfers to Pakistani jails under a treaty signed between the two governments.
A delay in implementing the treaty, coupled with miserable conditions in Thai prisons, caused the Pakistanis – serving sentences of between five and 18 years – to commit suicide. Four other prisoners died of AIDS, cancer, high-blood pressure and a heart attack, respectively.
All of these prisoners, who died between 2005 and 2010, were eligible for a transfer to Pakistan under the agreement which came into effect in December 2009 but was only implemented in December 2010.
The treaty was signed between the two countries in December 2007 but the terms and conditions could not be finalised until November 2009. Under the agreement, Prisoners who have completed one-third of their sentences in Thailand, or four to eight years in prison – depending on the nature of their offence – have a right to request for a transfer to Pakistan.
But even after coming into effect in December 2009, neither government took any steps to implement it, until recently.
So far, 30 of around 100 Pakistani prisoners have been transferred back in three trips between December 27, 2010 and June 29, 2011.
Sources familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune that the release and return of the 30 Pakistani prisoners was ensured after a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, on May 20 last year, ordered formation of a joint committee of members of the interior, foreign affairs ministry and finance ministries which followed up on the case. A delegation of Pakistani diplomats even visited Thai jails and submitted a report.
The prisoners who have returned to Pakistan were captured by Thailand’s law-enforcement agencies during 1999-2000 on charges of drug smuggling.
They have now been shifted to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi where they will complete their sentences.
Those still imprisoned in Thailand belong to Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Attock, Peshawar, Gujranwala, Toba Tek Singh, Mianwali and Nowshehra. Two among them have been given the death penalty while others are supposed to serve prison sentences varying between 50 and 100 years.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2011.
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