LAHORE - Justice Project Pakistan, a non-profit organisation working for prisoners’ rights, on Monday informed the Lahore High Court that at least 67 Pakistanis have been executed in Saudi Arabia since 2017, eight of them this year.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali was hearing the case. According to the report prepared by Justice Project Pakistan and Human Rights Watch, so far, 2,795 Pakistani citizens have been detained in Saudi Arabia and at least 9,360 Pakistanis were detained in prisons all over the world, with 5,798 in Gulf countries alone. Barrister Sarah Belal had been fighting the case for the rights of the prisoners detained in prisons of the other countries. She filed the petition on behalf of 10 Pakistani prisoners languishing in the jails of Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistani prisoners in foreign jails do not have legal assistance as the state has not made laws so far for their rights or to address the grievances of the victim families.  Sarah said on March 28, 2018, the Federal Cabinet granted approval for the signing of an agreement for the transfer of convicted individuals between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Admitting the findings of the report, CJ Ali observed that “In the interest of justice, this treaty must be submitted in the court after being signed.”

Covering 22 cases, the report documents the plight of Pakistani citizens imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. They are doubly vulnerable, considering they are treated worse than any other nationality and are the highest number of foreign nationals executed in Saudi Arabia.

Detained Pakistanis suffer rampant due process violations, such as long periods of detention without charge or trial, no access to legal assistance, pressure from the authorities to sign confessions and accept predetermined prison sentences, and ineffective translation services for defendants in the Saudi criminal justice system.  So far, at least 67 Pakistanis have been executed in Saudi Arabia since Oct. 2014, 8 of them just this year alone. Their families are yet to receive their bodies. As of now, 2795 Pakistani citizens remain detained in Saudi Arabia.

At least 9,360 Pakistanis are detained in prisons all over the world, with 5,798 in Gulf countries alone. Prisoner transfer agreements have historically been instrumental for the return of Pakistanis prisoners, many of whom are particularly vulnerable to harsher sentences in foreign countries due to their indigent status.  “We congratulate the Government of Pakistan on negotiating this agreement with Saudi Arabia to help protect some of its most vulnerable citizens,”  said Sarah Belal. She said: “ We have always maintained that whenever the government intervenes to help Pakistani citizens abroad, they have been successful, and this agreement will only enhance our ability to protect them,”.

 

She further said:  “The critical next step to make these reforms meaningful and effective is to enact a consular protection policy that ensures timely justice for all Pakistanis, no matter where they are.”

 

 

 

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LAHORE: The  Lahore High Court on Monday directed Punjab chief secretary, Punjab Education Foundation and Secretary Schools to submit replies on a petition against handing over of 5,000 public sector schools to the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) under the Public School Support Programme (PSSP).

Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza of the LHC was hearing the case. Advocate Shoaib Saleem filed the petition submitting that the functioning of the PSSP under the PEF was in clear violation of the Punjab Education Foundation Act 2004 and Article 25-A of the Constitution which enshrines right to free education.

The petitioner alleged the few members of the PEF’s board of directors including Dr Amjad Saqid, who also happens to be Chairman of an NGO namely Aukhwat, started taking over public sector schools in order to get financial benefits from the support programme. He said Dr Amjad Saqib also who headed the meeting wherein it was decided to hand over almost 100 public sector schools to his NGO.

Moreover, he stated the PEF, which already lacked professional educationists, would be burdened due to the school support programme. The lawyer asked the court to set aside the act of the government handing over public sector schools to the private institutions/NGOs and direct it to return them to the education department.

He asked the court to restrain Primary and Secondary Education Secretary Ali Jan Khan from working as in-charge of the PSSP. The court put off further hearing until May 2, 2018.

 

 

 

 

FIDA HUSSNAIN