The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued notices to the secretaries of the interior and foreign affairs ministries as well as the provincial home secretary to file comments on efforts to bring home Pakistani women sentenced and languishing in prisons in the United Arab Emirates.
Headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, the bench also issued notice to the deputy attorney-general to file comments of the federal authorities by August 13.
The Sarim Burney International Trust had filed the petition to seek a direction for the Pakistani authorities to expedite the process of bringing home women convicted by courts in the United Arab Emirates. The interior ministry, the foreign affairs ministry, the provincial home secretary and the UAE government through its counsel-general at Karachi were named as respondents.
The trust's administrator, Rashida Shakir, submitted that an agreement had been made in Dubai in February 2012 between the then Pakistani interior minister Rehman A Malik and UAE interior minister Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan regarding the transfer of the sentenced prisoners between the two countries.
The petitioner said that the Sarim Burney International Trust had requested the President and the Prime Minister as well as the director-general of the Foreign Affairs Ministry for the transfer of all Pakistani women prisoners, who were in different prisons.
The trust claimed that President's Secretariat had, on May 29, called the details of all the women languishing in foreign prisons from the foreign affairs secretary.
"Since 2012, no efforts have been made by the Pakistani government for the transfer of the prisoners, especially the women prisoners, from the jails of the United Arab Emirates to Pakistani prisons," argued Qadir Hussain, the trust's lawyer.
Right to life
The lawyer argued that Articles 4, 9, 14 and 35 of the Constitution provide that no person shall be deprived of life and liberty, except in accordance with the law and a family shall be protected by the state. "The Constitution guarantees protection against any attack on life or liberty of a person and his family subject to law," said the lawyer, adding that the word 'life' included the right to live in a clean atmosphere, where fundamental rights were guaranteed and protection from encroachment on privacy and liberty was ensured.
"Under Article 8 of the agreement, the sentenced person may be transferred if they are a national of the administrating state," he added.
The trust named seven women, who were handed down sentences exceeding a period of ten years. Three of the prisoners, Samim Akhtar, Fashola Rohi and Sehrish Kazmi, are sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Similarly, four prisoners, Nazia Jahangir, Taiba Rani, Asma Ghulam and Sajida Farzand, have been sentenced to serve 15 years in prison.
The trust maintained that the prisoners should be transferred to their country of originto serve the remaining sentences, in accordance with the provisions of the agreement.
The court was pleaded to direct the respondents to ensure immediate transfer of the nine Pakistani female prisoners from the UAE jails to Pakistan.
After hearing initial arguments, the two judges issued notices to the interior, the foreign affairs and the home secretaries. The DAG was directed to file the comments by August 13.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2014.