UAE to free 572 Pakistani prisoners, foreign office says

People stand outside the federal supreme court in Abu Dhabi, November 27, 2011. Pakistan said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates had decided to free 572 Pakistani prisoners in its jails. (REUTERS/File)
Updated 17 May 2019
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UAE to free 572 Pakistani prisoners, foreign office says

  • Foreign office says good news also expected soon on release of prisoners from Saudi jails
  • Condemns recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates had decided to free 572 Pakistani prisoners languishing in jails across the country, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Thursday, in good news for the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan which has made the release of prisoners abroad a priority.
There are some 2,600 Pakistanis imprisoned in the UAE and around 3,400 in Saudi Arabia on different charges, including murder and drug-peddling.
In February, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had also ordered the release of about 2,100 Pakistani prisoners from the kingdom’s jails during a high-profile visit to Islamabad.
“Our mission in the UAE is in touch with the relevant authorities to expedite their [Pakistanis] release and deportation,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal said at a weekly press briefing.
Giving a rough number of Pakistanis in jails across the UAE, he said 262 were in Abu Dhabi, 65 in Ajman, 62 in Fujairah and 52 in Sharjah.
“We will also hear good news regarding the release of Pakistani prisoners from Saudi jails very soon,” the foreign office spokesman said in response to a question.
Last month, the Paksitani foreign minister said Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in the Kingdom was working with Saudi officials for the release of 2,107 prisoners as ordered by the Saudi crown prince.
The Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on Overseas Pakistanis, Syed Zulfi Bukhari, met the Dubai police chief Maj. Gen. Abdullah Khalifa Al Mari in January this year in Dubai and devised a mechanism to share date on prisoners with the aim of swift repatriation.
“The exchange of data is expected to help Islamabad make arrangements for repatriation of prisoners well before they are released,” the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development had said in a statement.
Pakistan’s Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Andleeb Abbas informed the National Assembly earlier this month that Saudi Arabia was expected to release Pakistani prisoners during Ramadan under a “special clemency law.”
Out of around eight million overseas Pakistanis, more than 11,000 are languishing in foreign jails, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ data. Other than those in Saudi and UAE jails, there are some 1,842 Pakistanis jailed in Greece, 582 in India, 177 in Afghanistan, 242 in China, 188 in Iran, and 226 in Malaysia.
Commenting on the recent escalation in US-Iranian tensions following Washington’s decision this month to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and to beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats, Faisal said the situation could prove dangerous for regional peace.
“Any miscalculation can lead to a large scale conflict in the region,” he said.
He also condemned recent attacks this week on Saudi oil tankers off the coast of the UAE as well as drone attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities.
“Pakistan condemns attacks on Saudi Arabia, and believes that such attacks can endanger peace of the Middle East and the whole region,” Faisal said.


In Peshawar prison, women inmates share food and prayers in Ramadan

Updated 27 May 2019
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In Peshawar prison, women inmates share food and prayers in Ramadan

PESHAWAR: Located next to iconic landmarks like the Provincial Assembly and the High Court, the central prison in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar is a handsome old building bursting at the seams with over 1,800 prisoners. 38 of them are women.

The existing building was established in 1854 with an occupancy limit of 425 prisoners, but with the influx of thousands of inmates, a new block is now under construction and slated for completion by the end of the year. 

Inside the prison kitchens, convicted prisoners make round traditional bread and prepare Iftar meals for other inmates. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

The prison department provides basic facilities and food to inmates still under trial and to those convicted in the male, female and juvenile sections. During the month of Ramadan, these facilities extend to include special meals at Iftar, like sweet rice, chicken and potatoes served with a side of milky hot tea. 

A female inmate cooks chicken gravy for herself and other prisoners in the prison barracks before Iftar. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

“We get good food in this month (of Ramadan) and are free to offer our prayers and recite the Holy Quran at any time,” said Shahida, an inmate who has been in the prison for five years but was convicted for murder late last year. 

Acting superintendent of the prison releases prisoners after the court orders arrive. The inmates receive the good news right before Iftar time in Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

The large hall of the women’s section has a scattering of beds, but most inmates sleep, eat and pray on quilts spread out on the floor. 

A police officer stands guard outside the entrance to the women’s section in Peshawar’s central jail. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

"Some of the women get sick often,” said Iffat Shaheen, assistant superintendent of the women’s prison section. “Right now we have two pregnancy cases and one case of HIV AIDS, so we try to give them good meals. A few prisoners have small children inside prison with them and they get milk as well.” 

A female inmate gives English lessons to some of the children at the Peshawar central prison. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

Another female inmate convicted for possession of drugs has been in prison for seven months. She declined to be identified but said they had a lot of free time in Ramadan that could be put to good use. 

Women in Peshawar’s central prison spend their days reading the Quran and reciting prayer beads during the month of Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

“This is a helpful time for us to learn skills like handicrafts and sewing,” she said. “When we leave prison, perhaps these things will pave the way for a good, halal living.” 

A woman inmate at Peshawar’s central jail has decorated her hands with henna in anticipation of the holy festival of Eid, which will mark the end of Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)
Rooh Afza, a popular indigenous drink made from herbs and flowers, is served around Peshawar’s central prison by the bucketfuls before Iftar. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)
Weekly menu written out for prisoners at Peshawar’s central jail in Urdu. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)