ISLAMABAD - Standing Committee of National Assembly (NA) on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development on Tuesday formed a three-member Sub-Committee to ensure the provision of legal assistance to the under-trial Pakistani prisoners in different jails abroad.

The Sub-Committee, chaired by Dr Mahreen Razzaq Bhutto, will also work in close coordination with Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to eventually facilitate repatriation process of Pakistani prisoners, serving minor jail terms abroad.

In its previous meeting, the NA body, directed the Overseas Ministry to submit complete data of Pakistani prisoners and detainees, imprisoned in various countries. The Committee met with Sheikh Fayyaz ud Din in the chair asked the Sub-Committee to look into the matter on priority which pertained to over 3,000 jobless Pakistanis in Oman’s detention centre.

The Overseas Ministry’s representatives apprised the panel that more than 2,500 Pakistanis were facing trial in different countries courts while over 6,500 were convicted for their involvement in major and minor crimes.

The NA body was further informed that details of more than 900 Pakistanis were not received from few countries due to disapproval of prisoners for not sharing their data with anyone.

The Chairman Committee asked the Ministry about the status of Pakistani prisoners whose release from Saudi Arabian jails had been ordered by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman during his recent visit to Pakistan.

Secretary Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Division Pervaiz Junejo said that the issue was also echoed in the concerned Senate Standing Committee, adding, that the details of 579 prisoners had been shared by the Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry.

Fayyaz ud Din directed the Ministry and Pakistani Embassy in Saudi Arabia to intensify its efforts for implementation of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s promise which he made with Prime Minister Imran Khan here in Islamabad. The details should be shared with media in that regard, he added. Dr Mahreen said thst the Overseas Ministry should step up its efforts for providing legal assistance to the under-trial prisoners, besides bringing back those prisoners who were involved in petty crimes.

She regretted that the Ministry’s performance with regard to the repatriation of freed prisoners, was not upto the mark. Pervaiz said the Ministry’s Community Welfare Attachees were working efficiently to facilitate Pakistani prisoners abroad.  The Ministry of Foreign Affair’s fund was also being utilised to provide them legal aid, he added.

The details of prisoners showed that a number of Pakistani were involved in drugs smuggling and human trafficking, said Zahra Wadood Fatemi, while urging the Overseas Ministry to take up the issue with relevant stakeholders.

The Secretary said that the Ministry of Interior was taking concrete measures to discourage the malpractice.

He said that the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment was sensitising the masses about the ramification of smuggling and has established an online link with Federal Investigation Agency to monitor the issue.

Secretary Worker Welfare Fund (WWF) also apprised the Committee about its management and functioning, besides the initiatives taken by it for the welfare of industrial labourers. Besides developing 39,938 plots, he said, the WWF had built 14,875 houses, 19,257 flats and 260 barracks in the last four decades for catering the accommodation needs of workers, and added 7616 flats, 500 houses and 10 barracks were also being constructed for the purpose.

About education, the Secretary said that the department had set up 155 schools across the country while 5 more facilities were under construction. He said that the WWF had awarded post-matric scholarships to more than 0.2 million workers children.  Around 84,917 workers’ children were getting free education upto Matric, he added. The Secretary said that the department was also taking other welfare measures for the workers and their families including marriage grant, death grant and vocational trainings.