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.


Pakistanis in Dubai help release over 150 inmates from UAE prisons amid pandemic

Updated 57 min 31 sec ago

Pakistanis in Dubai help release over 150 inmates from UAE prisons amid pandemic

  • A majority of those who received Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) assistance were Pakistanis, but it also helped a number of people of other nationalities
  • Prime minister’s special assistant for overseas Pakistanis says PAD is the main organization helping repatriate nationals from UAE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) has helped amid the coronavirus pandemic release and repatriate more than 150 people from prisons in the United Arab Emirates.
In the past three months, PAD helped 154 inmates at prisons in Ajman and Dubai by buying their air tickets to return home and paid the fines required for their release orders to be issued. A majority of those who received PAD assistance were Pakistanis, but the association also helped a number of people of other nationalities.
“We arranged release and repatriation of 71 inmates from Ajman central prison this month. The initiative was not the first for PAD. We had also helped in release of 83 prisoners three months back from Dubai,” Rizwan Fancy, community welfare director at PAD, told Arab News over the phone from Dubai on Saturday.
The association has been working closely with UAE authorities.
“We were in process with Ajman government since the start of this month and completed the repartition this week after fulfilling all legal and medical requirements like COVID-19 testing,” Fancy said.
Those who received the assistance had been sentenced for petty crimes such as bounced cheques or overstaying. The have completed their sentences but were unable to pay release fines.
“We usually contact authorities and they share the list of such prisoners who can be released by paying small fines,” Fancy said. “We then arrange these things for the prisoners and subsequently their release takes place. We not only arranged for the release of Pakistani prisoners but managed to help in the release of 37 prisoners from other nationalities as well.”
The foreigners included citizens of Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Iran, Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq and Cameroon.
Every year, the association repatriates fellow nationals as well as other people who reach out for help, Fancy said.
“We take immense pride in serving the forgotten members of the community. We went out of our way and ensured support for all those deserving help.”
One of the repatriated Pakistanis, a resident of Chakwal who requested not to be named, said he is grateful to PAD. “They have arranged my repatriation from UAE. They have provided me with tickets and also fulfilled other requirements. My family is also very happy,” he told Arab News.
The prime minister’s special assistant for overseas Pakistanis, Sayed Zulifqar Bukhari, said that in PAD has been the main organization helping repatriate Pakistanis from the UAE.
“None of it would have been possible if we didn’t have the support and contributions of organizations like PAD and other individuals,” Bukhari said.
“It’s due to them why Pakistan has such a strong diaspora in UAE.”