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.


WHO lauds Pakistani frontline workers as 'real heroes' in polio fight

Updated 24 October 2020

WHO lauds Pakistani frontline workers as 'real heroes' in polio fight

  • 270,000 frontline workers participated in the nationwide anti-polio vaccination campaign last month
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the only countries where polio can be found, after Africa was declared polio-free in late August

ISLAMABAD: The World Health Organization (WHO) marked World Polio Day on Saturday by recognizing the hard work of thousands of Pakistani polio workers, as a nationwide immunization drive resumed after a months-long coronavirus hiatus.
According to Pakistan Polio Eradication Program data, 270,000 frontline workers participated in the door-to-door vaccination campaign last month after the government suspended nationwide polio efforts between April and July to focus on COVID-19 response.
"They are our real heroes in this effort, and with the provided support, they have made us proud by vaccinating millions of children during each campaign," WHO Pakistan representative Dr. Palitha Mahipala said, as quoted by local media.
He added that the WHO and its government and non-government partners are "working hard to ensure that Pakistan can be the next country on the journey to a polio-free world."
Polio is a highly infectious disease, which mainly affects children under the age of five and can cause paralysis or death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective means of protection against it.
The next polio eradication campaign will be starting on Monday, in 128 districts of the country, aiming to give polio drops to 31 million children.
Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the only countries where polio can be found, after Africa was declared polio-free in late August. Pakistan has registered 79 polio cases since the start of the year.