ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia released 1,245 Pakistani prisoners from its jails this year while representatives from Pakistan are in touch with the Saudi government for the release of remaining prisoners, the prime minister’s special assistant on overseas Pakistanis said on Thursday.
In February, Pakistan’s information ministry announced that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the release of about 2,100 Pakistani prisoners from the kingdom’s jails during a high-profile visit to Islamabad that month. The announcement came after a special request to the crown prince by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Along with 1,245 prisoners released from Saudi jails, approximately 3,400 deported from Makkah, Riyadh, Dammam, Tabuk and other Saudi cities have also been released from deportation camps since the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman,” Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari told Arab News in an interview in Islamabad.
According to an official count, more than 3,300 Pakistani prisoners are currently jailed in Saudi Arabia.
Bukhari said in the last year, the government had succeeded in getting 2,559 Pakistani prisoners freed out of a total of 6,880 imprisoned in Gulf countries.
Giving a breakdown of the last 12 months, Bukhari said Pakistan had secured the release of 1,245 Pakistani prisoners out of 3,303 jailed in Saudi Arabia, 1,200 out of 2,521 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 55 out of 592 in Oman, 18 out of 118 in Kuwait, 17 out of 144 in Bahrain, 14 out of 106 in Qatar and 10 out of 96 in Iraq.
Most Pakistanis are in detention in the Gulf for forgery, drug trafficking, illegal border crossing, theft, pick pocketing and bribery. Most of those released had been sentenced to 1-5 years in prison.
Bukhari said the Saudi government was fulfilling its promise for the speedy recovery of prisoners but there was a problem of devising the correct mechanism: “They [Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi Arabia] include those also who are deported while what our Prime Minister asked from Saudi Crown Prince was for those prisoners who are in jails for different crimes.”
“We are thankful to Saudi government for the release of such a good number of prisoners, which are approximately 38 percent of the total, and that also during one year,” Bukhari said. “We hope that the ongoing process would result in the release of more prisoners in the remaining two months of the year.”
He said relevant Pakistani ministries were working closely to make this possible.
“Ministry of foreign affairs is leading this effort while interior and overseas Pakistani’s ministries are working closely with them to provide relief to expats,” the minister said.