31 drug peddlers freed months after their return

Zardari pardoned three convicts while courts let 27 go without serving their sentences

Zahid Gishkori November 15, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Despite the lengthy sentences handed to them abroad, over two dozen drug peddlers who were deported to Pakistan from Thailand, walked free within months of their return.

Since 2010, Thailand has deported 42 Pakistanis who had been jailed for heinous crimes, according to the interior ministry.

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They had been convicted of drug-related offences and even murder with sentences ranging from decades in prison to life terms, and even death sentences in some instances.

The transfers were part of an agreement signed by the PPP-led government and four other countries, including Thailand, to transfer convicted Pakistani citizens back to serve out the remainder of their sentences in their home country.

Of all those transferred 31 had been set free within months of their return. Only 11 convicts are currently serving their terms in Pakistani prisons.

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The interior ministry, in a written reply to MNA Naeema Kishwar Khan’s questions in the National Assembly last week, said that three of those released had been pardoned by the then president, Asif Ali Zardari.

“Twenty-seven prisoners were released by high courts under the Transfer of Offenders Ordinance 2002 without completing their sentences,” noted the interior ministry’s documents available with The Express Tribune.

Only one prisoner, Muhammad Saeed, was released by the courts upon completing his stipulated sentence.

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Zardari, who had during his tenure stressed on the fight against drugs to curb terrorism, pardoned three men convicted of drug-related charges.

Among these was Muhammad Zaheer. Convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison in July 2000 by a Bangkok court, he was pardoned by Zardari just months after his transfer to Pakistan. But two years later, he was caught by the Anti-Narcotics Force for allegedly smuggling a large cache of heroin in 2012. A senior ANF official confirmed on Friday that Zaheer was involved in a fresh drug smuggling case.

The former president had also pardoned Syed Shamsul Hadi in 2011 just months after his transfer despite being handed a 40 year jail term by a Bangkok court. Khaliquz Zaman was pardoned in 2012 after spending a few months in jail.

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However, it was not the former president who allowed convicts to walk free before their terms were complete. Syed Haider, Irshad Ahmed and Muhammad Nadeem, who had all been sentenced to life by Thai courts, were released by Pakistani courts just a few months after their return. Similarly, drug peddler Raja Imtiaz spent only 17 months in a Pakistani jail even though a Thai court had handed him a life term.

Most of these convicts who were released by Pakistan have now fled the country, interior ministry officials told The Express Tribune. “They [drug barons] have left Pakistan— but the irony is that their names had been placed on the Exit Control List [at the time of their transfer],” an official of the interior ministry said.

“The incumbent government is taking note of the misuse of authority under the agreement. We are contesting the compatibility issue in terms of sentences in the Lahore High Court in a writ petition filed by the 11 prisoners who are still in jail,” the official added.

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Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had suspended the transfer of prisoner agreements pending finalisation of standard operating procedures for such transfers after 40 drug traffickers and peddlers were transferred illegally from Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2015.


Munir | 8 years ago | Reply What do Brothers do? They look-out and help each other.
Amir | 8 years ago | Reply Is it not obvious, these pardoned prisoners were either associated with our corrupt leaders or paid tributes for their freedom
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