ISLAMABAD: The long ordeal of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Thailand jails has finally seen a ray of hope as the first batch of eight Pakistanis is being repatriated under a bilateral agreement, said the Foreign Office.
The prisoners are being brought back under the agreement called “cooperation in the transfer of offenders of enforcement of penal sentences”.
The transfer of prisoners is the outcome of an inter-governmental process and represents close cooperation between Pakistan and Thailand in consular matters, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office spokesman, Abdul Basit.
He said the agreement on the transfer of offenders was signed by the two countries in 2007 and came into force in December 2009 after both sides completed their respective ratification processes.
Proactive efforts have since been made to ensure a fast-track implementation of the agreement, he said.
As per the provisions of the agreement and relevant Thai legislation, those prisoners who have completed 1/3 of their awarded sentences (or four or eight years, depending on the nature of the offence) have the right to request for transfer.
This is the first batch of prisoners being transferred to Pakistan under the bilateral agreement. Cases for transfer of the remaining qualified prisoners have been submitted to Thai authorities.
The ministry of foreign affairs, the ministry of interior and the embassy of Pakistan in Bangkok worked closely to achieve this outcome, the spokesman maintained.
The government expedited the repatriation of its nationals on the directives of the Supreme Court, who had ordered the Gilani administration to bring back the prisoners.
A non-government organisation called the Global Foundation which is working on the prisoners’ issues said around 97 Pakistanis were imprisoned in different jails in Thailand.
It claimed that the Thai government had offered to repatriate prisoners, belonging to 19 countries, including Pakistan. Except Pakistan, all other countries had brought their prisoners home.
Six Pakistani prisoners had died during incarceration, according to the organisation.
However, Basit insisted that the government was trying its level best to bring back Pakistanis held not only in Thailand but also in other countries.
He said since May this year as many as 932 Pakistani prisoners detained in different countries have been repatriated.
Giving a breakdown, he said 800 were brought back from the UAE, 66 from Afghanistan, 46 from Greece and 20 from Yemen.
But, there are still about 7,000 Pakistanis currently held in jails in different countries on different charges.
Every year hundreds of thousands of unskilled and poor Pakistanis go abroad, at times using illegal means, hoping for a better future but many of them end up in lock-ups.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2010.
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