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

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.


Minister rejects report suggesting soybean dust caused Karachi toxic gas deaths

Updated 20 February 2020

Minister rejects report suggesting soybean dust caused Karachi toxic gas deaths

  • 14 people have died since Sunday night, 350 have been hospitalized
  • Karachi University experts earlier identified soybean dust as possible cause of the deaths

KARACHI: Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Haider Zaidi on Wednesday rejected a university report that said soybean dust from a cargo ship was a likely cause of fatal poisoning that has claimed the lives of 14 people in Karachi since Sunday.
”How come the dust from the ship travels over a kilometer and only affects people in a specific area called Jungle Shah and does not affect anyone else?” the minister told Arab News. “I reject the report,” he said, adding that it was “questionable.”
“Why the dust from soybeans did not affect the crew of the ship and 400+ laborers who were busy offloading the cargo,” Zaidi argued and said forensic investigations were underway to determine the cause of the poisoning. “Will not speculate anything before we see all the reports. This is a scientific forensic investigation.”
Provincial authorities and Karachi University experts said on Tuesday said that soybean dust was the likely cause of the toxic gas that killed 14 and left over 350 people sick.
“Preliminary report has been submitted by experts at Khi (Karachi) Uni (university) which suggests that Kiamari incident happened due to over exposure of soybean dust which is known to have also caused similar incidents in other parts of the world,” Murtaza Wahab, spokesperson of the Sindh government tweeted late Tuesday.
The report by the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) said the deaths were likely due to soybean dust exposure.
“The symptoms due to exposure to soybean dust (aeroallergens) may be considered as the possible cause,” the report said.
Earlier, a government source told Arab News that the incident occurred following the unloading of soybeans on Saturday evening at berth 12 of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) after MV Hercules arrived from the US. The unloading created dust which made its way toward Jackson area of Karachi’s Kiamari municipality.
According to sources, MV Hercules was fumigated on Jan. 8 at Cargill grain reserve Los Angeles, US with 56-degree aluminum phosphide.
Repeated exposure to the substance may damage the lungs, kidneys and liver, the sources said, adding that “it is likely that exposure to particles of aluminum phosphide may have created problems for individuals passing by at that time and such unfortunate incident.”