MNA Ali Muhammad Khan Promises to Raise the Issue of Overseas Pakistani Prisoners in Parliament

ISLAMABAD, 09 February 2017: Lawmaker Ali Muhammad Khan, member of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice, stated his commitment to take up the plight of overseas Pakistanis in Parliament.

He added that he would take up the individual cases of the victims of drug trafficking with Sartaj Aziz, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs.

The statement was made at a panel discussion to discuss the rights of Pakistanis in jails abroad, organized by Justice Project Pakistan at the National Press Club, Islamabad.

The panel discussion featured parliamentarian Ali Muhammad Khan, Commissioner Chaudhry Shafique of the National Commission of Human Rights, Dawn News Anchor Amber Rahim Shamsie and Barrister Sarah Belal, Executive Director of JPP.

Shafique while emphasizing the difference between trafficking and smuggling, said that “the response of the government towards protecting the lives of Pakistanis imprisoned abroad is inadequate and improper.” He added that the government of Pakistan is not fulfilling its international minimum standards with regard to safeguarding its citizens from trafficking.

While discussing the role of the media, Shamsie stated that the media “has the power to pressurize the government to act as they did in the case of Zulfiqar Ali Khan who faced imminent execution in Indonesia last year. ”

Until 2014, there were 8597 Pakistani citizens in jails worldwide. The need for immediate and forceful representation on behalf of imprisoned Pakistanis is dire.

Pakistan lacks a codified policy on consular support for its citizens imprisoned abroad. In response to a Lahore High Court petition filed by JPP on behalf of 10 migrant workers, the Pakistan government submitted a set of diffused ‘guidelines’ that it adheres to when dealing with cases of Pakistani prisoners. These are not readily disseminated or made available for the public, leading to a lack of understanding among officials and next to no awareness for prisoners about their rights.

Wassam Waheed, Spokesperson for Justice Project Pakistan adds: We are delighted that lawmakers and the NCHR have reiterated their commitment to preserve and protect the lives of Pakistanis jailed abroad. There remains a critical need to design and implement systems to prevent trafficking of vulnerable Pakistanis and this is a very welcome first step.