Pakistan to revive prisoner exchange program with UK

In this file photo, a Pakistani policeman closes the main gate of the Adiala Jail, in Rawalpindi, Nov. 17, 2006. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2018

Pakistan to revive prisoner exchange program with UK

  • Formulated in 2007, the treaty was suspended by Islamabad eight years later
  • Move to ensure prisoners serve sentences in their respective home countries

ISLAMABAD: As part of the an intitiative to ensure justice and accountability, the federal cabinet on Thursday approved plans to renew a prisoner exchange program with the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
The Prisoner Exchange Treaty (PET) was part of an understanding reached between the two parties in September this year.
"The UK-Pakistan prisoner transfer agreement will be important for both countries," Thomas Drew, British High Commissioner to Pakistan said on Friday, adding that the move would "allow prisoners of each country to serve their sentences in their home country”.
However, before the PET is implemented, it needs to be ratified by the British parliament first. The deal is a vital component of a greater initiative formulated to tackle issues pertaining to money laundering, theft of assets, and most-wanted criminals, through an adhoc extradition process agreed upon by the two main countries.
Eradication of corruption and ensuring accountability featured heavily on Prime Minister Imran Khan's post-election agenda and continues to be an integral part of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party's manifesto.
Clarifying what the treaty entails, former Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, Ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hassan, told Arab News: “This prisoner exchange agreement does not mean (full) extradition treaty. Even during my time as HC, there was an understanding over exchange of prisoners."
A formal extradition treaty between Pakistan and UK does not exist despite Islamabad's tireless efforts in trying to persuade the British government -- which has signed treaties with more than a 100 countries, including India -- to ink a deal.
"Pakistan until now has not succeeded in signing that treaty. PM Khan’s government made fresh efforts to arrive at an understanding on the extradition treaty. And there was a sort of breakthrough when British Home Secretary Sajid Javed visited Pakistan and held talks with government officials. While extradition treaty remains an elusive dream, the two governments did reach an understanding over the transfer and exchange of prisoners," Hassan, Pakistan’s longest serving High Commissioner to London, said.
Terms and conditions for ratification of the previous treaty were exchanged on August 19, 2008, but the treaty was suspended by Pakistan in 2015 under the directives of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
This was after Britain lodged a complaint citing a violation of the treaty, whereby it stated that criminals repatriated from the UK had been released by Pakistan without completing their sentences. This forced Islamabad to suspend all similar treaties until the "formulation of a transparent policy”.
On it's own, the general principal of the treaty states that: “A person sentenced in the territory of the state of one party may be transferred to the territory of the state of the other party, in accordance with the provisions of this agreement, in order to serve the sentence imposed on him."
Despite the lack of an official policy, Pakistan last month extradited a fugitive from Rawalpindi to UK. Arrested in 2015, he was wanted for killing eight members of a family in 2002 and was the second person to be extradited to Britain.
According to the British Home Office, the UK is open to lodge an extradition request to Pakistan, or to any other territory with which it does not have an extradition treaty. It is for the territory concerned to decide whether or not it should act on such a request, according to its own domestic law, renowned British journalist Owen Bennet Jones said in his article on a Pakistani man charged with double murder and extradited to UK in 2016.
This arrangement, however, does not fulfill the federation or its corruption watchdog’s (National Accountability Bureau) exhaustive pursuit to bring back individuals residing in England in the absence of an extradition treaty.
Eradication of corruption and ensuring accountability featured heavily on Prime Minister Imran Khan's post-election agenda and continues to be an integral part of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party's manifesto.
Two of Sharif's sons and his loyalist Ishaq Dar, the former finance minister, have been declared absconders by Pakistan's court but are safely residing in England, as Pakistan has not been able to secure their apprehension or extradition from London.
Hassan reasons that the likelihood of UK agreeing to sign the treaty -- based on a commitment which PM Khan made to the nation to bring back absconders, former state officials and individuals charged or suspected of  embezzlement, corruption, and crime -- remains in limbo -- even as the former envoy highlighted the country’s checkered history and human rights track record.
"Public opinion in Britain and the members of parliament are wary of Pakistan’s human rights record. It is generally feared that the treaty would be abused to seek extradition of Pakistan’s political dissenters who often find safe refuge here from a revengeful government," Hassan said, citing the examples of former political leaders who took refuge in the UK and "carried on their political struggle".
"Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and currently Altaf Hussain, besides hundreds of others, including members of minority communities accused of blasphemy have taken refuge here," he said.

Pakistan gets lifeline till Feb 2021 as FATF continues to keep it on grey list

Updated 23 October 2020

Pakistan gets lifeline till Feb 2021 as FATF continues to keep it on grey list

  • The country has completed 21 out of 27 items of the global financial watchdog’s action plan, acknowledges FATF officials
  • The government of Pakistan has signaled the commitment to complete the rest of the action plan, says the FATF president

KARACHI: The global financial watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), decided on Friday to keep Pakistan on its “grey list” while acknowledging that the country had made significant progress in meeting international anti-terrorism financing norms and should not be downgraded to the “blacklist.”

The FATF began its virtual plenary meeting on October 21 under the first two-year German presidency of Dr Marcus Pleyer.

“Pakistan will remain our increased monitoring list,” he announced after the end of the conference. “The plenary recognizes that Pakistan has made progress. The government has now completed 21 out of 27 items of its action plan. The government of Pakistan has signaled the commitment to complete the rest of its action plan.”

“Even though Pakistan has made progress it needs to do more,” he continued. “It cannot stop now and needs to carry out reforms in particular to implement targeted financial sanctions and prosecuting sanctions financing terrorism.”

Responding to a question, the FATF president said that onsite inspection would be carried out after the next plenary in February 2021 to decide about Pakistan’s exclusion from the grey list.

Pakistan was placed on the list of countries with inadequate controls over terrorism financing by the FATF in June 2018.

The Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), an inter-governmental organization in the Asia-Pacific region, issued the first Follow Up Report (FUR) on Pakistan last month.

The report reflected the country’s performance until February 2020 and noted that it had complied with only two recommendations related to financial institution secrecy laws and financial intelligence units out of 40 recommendations on the effectiveness of anti-money laundering and combating financing terror (AML/CFT) system.

However, Pakistan managed to pass three crucial FATF-related laws during a joint session of parliament in September this year. With these laws, the country managed to comply with most of the legislation required by the international watchdog to strength the country’s financial system.

The FATF “strongly” urged Pakistan in February this year to complete its full action plan by June 2020, warning it would take action against the country which could include advising financial institutions to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan. Later, the deadline was extended and the country was given time until October 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pakistan also punished Hafiz Saeed, a Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader, in a terror financing case and decided to send him to prison for five and a half years.

Commenting on the FATF decision, financial experts said the decision to keep Pakistan on grey list owed to the government’s hasty legislation.

“The most vital issue relates to the roles assigned to the AML-CFT authority and self-regulatory bodies. These laws give powers to regulate AML-CFT to various government and professional bodies. They were not carefully drafted, create conflict of interest, and are complicated and ambiguous,” Dr Ikram ul Haq, a Lahore-based senior economist, said after the FATF decision.

The FATF blacklist have international pariah states like Iran and North Korea, and these countries are shunned by international financial institutions.