The government has failed to provide legal assistance to citizens detained abroad- many languishing miles away from home for several years.

In the latest hearing of the migrant workers case in Lahore High court, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah asserted that the reply submitted from the government is unsatisfactory and shows that the government has no policy to protect the fundamental rights of the oversees Pakistanis. It is clear that these citizens are left to represent themselves in an alien justice system and in a foreign language- inevitably facing conviction and execution.

It was argued in court that the report submitted by the government, claiming that they provide assistance to these prisoners were merely guidelines, and not an official policy. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah also pointed out that despite the fact that enormous revenue is generated from this workforce, the government is still failing to protect its citizens abroad. However, the respondents defended their actions by claiming that these were autonomous countries and they could not interfere in their internal affairs. Sameer Khosa the appointed amicus curiae (friend of court) by the judge, contends quite the opposite. For him if the government could support Zaid Hamid and Moeed Pirzada, two eminent media personalities, making sure they were brought back to Pakistan, then why could they not make an effort for the repatriation of common Pakistanis?

Many of the Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, often travelling there to engage in manual labour, come from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds, lacking both the education and resources through which to engage with the Saudi legal system. As always, it is the poor and marginalized who pay for the sins of the rich and powerful.

Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) reports that in 2015 alone, there have been 23 executions of Pakistani nationals in Saudi Arabia. The government may have spoken up in light of Al-Nimr’s execution in Saudi Arabia, but why has it maintained silence of the plight of its workers imprisoned and executed? The absence of a penal code, a total disregard for due process, ill-defined thresholds for the evidence required to ‘convict’ those accused of crimes, and the frequent use of torture to solicit ‘confessions’, has caused these poor hardworking Pakistanis to face the harshest punishments. Pakistan has a legal obligation to protect its citizens detained abroad. These men are not just statistics. These are human beings, with families and loved ones. And these are people who have been largely abandoned by Pakistan.