In a disgraceful failure on the part of our establishment, Zulfiqar Ali succumbed to his grave illness away from home and hearth in an Indonesian hospital. With the Justice Project Pakistan and global Human Rights organisations vying for his repatriation, the frantic campaign to overturn his wrongful conviction has come to a close without seeing fruition.

Where the Foreign Office’s feeble assertions that the government had been making efforts for his repatriation are lip-service that gloss over their callous negligence of this issue, the disturbing fact remains that Zulfiqar suffered wrongful incarceration for 14 years, a circumstance our Ministry of Foreign Services was well aware of, along with the fact that he was wrongfully convicted.

A testament to a humble man’s misplaced faith in his country, he believed that his execution could still be put on hold if both the governments took up the matter on embassy level. Where President Widodo’s intractable stance brooked no compromise, it was a complete lack of political will or effort on the part of the Government of Pakistan that had waived a strong consular protection policy to safeguard or advocate for the rights of its citizens convicted in prisons abroad. Where such issues of humanitarian urgency rarely glean a fleeting interest on the part of our establishments docket, the fact that the profound injustice of Zulfiqar’s wrongful incarceration and consequential deteriorating health was widely advocated on social media, and was even broached in parliament by Shazia Atta Mari, yet still remained unacknowledged through any concrete efforts by the government is shameful.

Around 7,912 Pakistani nationals are imprisoned in different foreign countries without legal assistance or any programme in effect that can safeguard their rights. Zulfiqar’s case is a harrowing instance of the government’s blatant inaction in the face of the turmoil faced by one of its citizens abroad and should behove our policymakers to formulate solid consular protection programs that protect citizens away from their homes especially in the current antagonistic global political climate.