Pakistan, UK to sign prisoner exchange deal ‘shortly’

In this file photo, a Pakistani policeman closes the main gate of the Adiala Jail, in Rawalpindi, Nov. 17, 2006. (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2018

Pakistan, UK to sign prisoner exchange deal ‘shortly’

  • Islamabad hopes to finalize treaty by March
  • British parliamentarians fear it will be abused to repatriate political dissidents

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and United Kingdom on Tuesday expressed “satisfaction” over the legalities of the protocol pertaining to the exchange and transfer of prisoners between both the countries, hoping that the deal “would be signed shortly” – a development for which Islamabad has been trying to convince the British government for long.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jeremy Hunt, discussed this and a host of other issues over a telephone call.
“The two foreign ministers discussed a wide range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual interest and expressed satisfaction at the current state of relations,” a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs read.
Pakistan also appreciated the expanded bilateral cooperation and stressed that the UK was an important trade and investment partner for the South Asian nation. “Brexit would open new opportunities for trade and development between the two countries,” Qureshi said.
The two foreign ministers agreed to hold the fourth round of talks as part of the Pakistan-UK Enhanced Strategic Dialogue in the first quarter of 2019 in London.
According to the statement, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation, particularly in the spheres of “regional security, counter-terrorism, organized crime, money-laundering and asset recovery.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has been trying to sign bilateral treaties with the UK and other countries in its pursuit to fight corruption and recover looted money stashed abroad.
As part of the effort, Pakistan’s federal cabinet last month approved plans to renew a prisoner exchange program with the UK and Northern Ireland. The Prisoner Exchange Treaty was part of an understanding reached between the two countries in September this year during British Home Secretary Sajid Javed’s visit to Islamabad.
Masroor Shah, a senior lawyer and expert on international law, said that the prisoner exchange treaty is a welcome move as this would help both the countries swap prisoners on “humanitarian grounds.”
“The treaty is also a tool of bilateral cooperation and this will help open other avenues of collaboration between both the countries,” he told Arab News. “The treaty will help facilitate the fair treatment and social rehabilitation of prisoners in their native countries.”
Shah, however, clarified that the deal is not equivalent to an extradition treaty. “Pakistan and UK does not have a formal extradition treaty, but even then Pakistan has extradited at least two persons so far to the UK through a bilateral arrangement,” he added.
He said that Pakistan’s anti-corruption institutions would not be able to bring back the wanted individuals residing in England in the absence of an extradition treaty.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, Mirza Shahzad Akbar told Arab News earlier this week that a bilateral treaty would be ratified with the UK in the coming months, besides enacting a Mutual Legal Assistance law to obtain evidence from foreign jurisdictions about financial crimes and corruption.
“We are also hopeful to sign an extradition treaty with the UK by March next year,” he said.
Tahir Malik, an expert on international affairs, expressed skepticism over Pakistan’s claim of signing the extradition treaty with the UK by March, saying that British parliamentarians and the civil society have repeatedly expressed concerns over Islamabad’s human rights record and treatment being meted out to religious minorities.
“UK parliamentarians fear that the extradition treaty, once signed with Pakistan, will be abused by seeking expatriation of political dissidents,” he told Arab News. “Until Islamabad addresses the legitimate human rights’ concerns of the international community, an extradition treaty with the UK won’t be possible.”


Appeal opens against acquittal of Briton convicted in Daniel Pearl killing

Updated 01 December 2020

Appeal opens against acquittal of Briton convicted in Daniel Pearl killing

  • Pearl’s parents and prosecutors lodged an appeal at Pakistan’s Supreme Court in May, putting the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh on hold
  • The American journalist was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants

ISLAMABAD: An appeal against the controversial acquittal of a British-born militant convicted of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl opened at a Pakistani court on Tuesday.
A Karachi court sparked outrage earlier this year when it overturned the 2002 murder conviction of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and acquitted three other men connected to the case.
Pearl’s parents and prosecutors lodged an appeal at Pakistan’s Supreme Court in May, putting the release of the four men on hold.
“The case has finally opened, it will be decided whether they should be convicted or acquitted. The case is heading to a final verdict,” Faisal Siddiqui, the lawyer representing Pearl’s parents, told AFP.
The appeal, which has been frequently postponed in recent months, will hear opening arguments in the capital Islamabad on Wednesday.
Sheikh had been on death row for Pearl’s murder but was acquitted in April by the Sindh High Court which instead sentenced him to seven years for kidnapping — paving the way for him to walk free after already serving 18 years.
Three co-defendants who were serving life sentences in connection to the case were acquitted.
Pearl was South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.
A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate nearly a month later.
Pearl’s killing stirred international condemnation of Pakistan’s military government just as it was remaking its image after years of backing the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.