He languishes in a United States jail for the past two decades, wondering how long will he stay there. Was it the dreams of a bright future or simply bad luck? When Daud Qazi left his home in Pakistan for the US in 1983 but never to return, was an employee of Sindh Police. He got thrown in a prison cell on March 21, 1994, on charges of assault and manslaughter. While his ailing mother awaits his return back home, Qazi languishes in a special prisoners’ cell in New York.
“My mother, Razia Begum, 86, is on death bed; her only wish is to see her son who is in jail in New York,” said Daud Qazi’s younger brother Imtiaz, 52, who lives in Karachi. “In a letter, my brother had told us that the court had awarded him a jail term of 24 years despite his innocence.”
“They would have freed me if someone had pursued my case,” Daud said in a letter to his mother waiting for him to return home.
Daud, social security number 101662683, is allowed to write just one letter in six months, Imtiaz’s wife Shaista Qaisar told The Express Tribune that an American court had awarded him 24 years in jail on charges that he had killed his American wife Maria Daud in 1983.
But Qazi family insists that Daud Qazi is innocent. “I don’t have enough money to plead my brother’s case in the US. We can’t even visit him,” said Imtiaz, appealing to the government to take up his brother’s case like that of Dr Aafia Siddiqi’s. “We appeal to the government but no one is responding.”
Qazi is one of the more than 550 Pakistanis jailed in one of the 12 cities in the United States. Most of them are interned in three cities, Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles, and over 200 facing judicial trial in California, Virginia, Illinois, North Carolina and other states.
The big question is: can they serve the sentence in their own country?
The Express Tribune obtained documents of another case from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They disclose that Shahwar Matin of the Garden East locality in Karachi has been put in the Federal Correctional Institution at Otisville on August 28, 2004.
He was charged of conspiracy to plant a bomb. The place where he is jailed is a medium-security United States federal prison for male inmates near Otisville, New York. He was awarded 30 years jail term. Nobody is pleading his case in the US.
Yet another Pakistani, Shehzad Amir, was put in the New Jersey State custody on charges of theft.
There are so many other Pakistani inmates in American jails who can neither plead their cases nor appeal against local courts’ decisions against them.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that most of these prisoners would be handed over to Pakistan if Islamabad ratified the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.
Last month, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave a go-ahead to the Foreign Affairs Ministry to seek assistance of the US and other European states to ratify the convention which will enable repatriation of Pakistani prisoners abroad.
“We are in the process of making a formal request for accession to the convention. No country has shown any reaction at this stage,” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry recently.
The convention, signed and ratified by 64 countries, allows foreign prisoners convicted of a criminal offence to serve out their sentences in their home countries. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan recommended signing of this agreement for repatriation of Pakistani prisoners to their homeland.
Under American laws, any person, including lawyers and family members can approach the prisoner for counselling, health issues and proximity talk, said a retired judge and expert on internal laws Majid Bashir. “I’m sure, more than fifty percent prisoners could be released if they acquire proper legal assistance,” added Bashir.
Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians MNA Belum Hasnain questioned why Pakistan was not pleading cases of its prisoners. “It’s unfortunate that our embassies abroad are not pursuing cases of Pakistani nationals,” Hasnain observed. With ratification of the aforesaid convention, over 215 prisoners will also be transferred to Pakistan from France and Spain accordingly.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2013.