Govt will not forsake Pakistanis imprisoned abroad: SAPM

Says nearly 1m citizens sent abroad for work in 18 months prior to pandemic


Our Correspondent December 12, 2020

ISLAMABAD:

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Zulfikar Bukhari on Saturday maintained that the government had repatriated 8,700 Pakistanis imprisoned abroad.

“I can assure you that our government will not forsake Pakistanis imprisoned abroad and we will work to bring back all destitute and vulnerable Pakistanis whether they have committed a crime or not,” Bukhari said while speaking at a gathering hosted by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP).

The gathering was held to commemorate the upcoming International Migrants Day on December 18 and celebrate the return of 41 Pakistanis earlier imprisoned in Sri Lanka.

The inmates were repatriated under a 2004 agreement that allows eligible prisoners to be returned to their home countries.

“It is very difficult to live in a foreign country without your family and we are doing everything possible to help out their loved ones back home and offer scholarships to their children,” he said.

Bukhari observed that nearly a million Pakistanis had been sent abroad for work by the government in the 18 months prior to the pandemic.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka while addressing the gathering commented that “this is our fundamental responsibility to ensure that our prisoners are not only sent back but that their issues here are looked after”.

“For all the prisoners who are left here, we will do our utmost best to help you,” he added.

Former commissioner of Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission Ambika Satkunanathan also addressed the gathering virtually and thanked the Pakistani government for extraditing the prisoners and returning them home.

In November, 41 prisoners from Sri Lanka were successfully repatriated to Pakistan, to serve out the rest of their sentences close to their family and friends. Earlier this year, many prisoners were sent back from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Due to the lack of a uniform consular policy, Pakistani citizens imprisoned abroad lacked consular support and adequate legal representation, often suffering due process violations such as long periods of detention without charge or trial.

The event was also attended by foreign dignitaries, including the German Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schalgheck, as well as local politicians and parliamentarians.

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