All Pakistani inmates with completed terms sent home from Saudi: Envoy

A general view of Ha’er Prison in Saudi Arabia July 6, 2015. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2020

All Pakistani inmates with completed terms sent home from Saudi: Envoy

  • Pakistan’s ambassador says perception that there were still a large number of Pakistanis languishing in Saudi jails was incorrect
  • 88 Pakistanis out of a total 1,848 in the consular jurisdiction of Riyadh released and repatriated in December 2019

ISLAMABAD: No Pakistani prisoners who have completed their jail terms remain behind bars in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s envoy to the Kingdom, Raja Ali Ejaz, said on Sunday.

According to a document provided to Arab News by Pakistan’s embassy in Riyadh, 88 Pakistani prisoners out of a total 1,848 in the consular jurisdiction of Riyadh were released and repatriated in December 2019. Now 1,760 Pakistanis are imprisoned in Saudi jails.

“All Pakistani prisoners in consular jurisdiction Riyadh who had completed their sentences till December 31, 2019, have been released and repatriated to Pakistan,’ the ambassador said via telephone from Riyadh. “Saudi Authorities are coordinating and cooperating with us, due to which many prisoners were released even ahead of the completion of their term.”

Ejaz said the perception that there were still many Pakistanis languishing in Saudi jails was incorrect. “There is a very large Pakistani community, of around 2.6 million people, that resides in Saudi Arabia, out of which around 3,000 prisoners is not as big a number as propagated.”

“The embassy has devised a procedure with the help of the Saudi government to provide advance information to the host government every month from July 2019 onwards,” Ejaz said. “The (Pakistani) mission shared the names and identity particulars of Pakistani prisoners expected to be released during the following month,” he added. The division of the Kingdom into two consular jurisdictions, one in Riyadh and the other in Jeddah, had also made the process more seamless, the envoy said.

The Pakistani envoy said these steps helped the embassy maintain up-to-date data of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails while ensuring timely repatriation and releases.

In February 2019, Pakistan’s Information Ministry announced that Saudi 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. In September last year, Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia had released 579 Pakistani prisoners in line with the crown prince’s announcement.

Alice Wells in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace, regional security

Updated 19 January 2020

Alice Wells in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace, regional security

  • The US deputy secretary of state for South and Central Asia visited Sri Lanka and India prior to her arrival
  • On Friday, FM Qureshi reminded Washington of Pakistan's help in Afghan peace process and asked for help in FATF issue

ISLAMABAD: Alice G. Wells, chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a four-day visit centered on discussions regarding the peace process in Afghanistan, bilateral and regional issues, the US embassy in Islamabad said in a statement on Sunday.
Wells — US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs — was received at the airport by foreign office and US embassy officials. She has been on a tour of South Asia since Jan. 13 and has been to Sri Lanka and India prior to her arrival in Pakistan.
Wells’ visit to Islamabad comes immediately after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi concluded his trip to the US where he interacted with senior United Nations and American officials in New York and Washington. 
According to Amir Rana, director of prominent Islamabad-based think tank, Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, the Afghan peace deal will be top of Wells’ agenda during her Pakistan tour.
Pakistan’s role in recent developments in the Middle East has positioned it as “an effective backdoor communication channel between Iran and the United States,” he added. 
In a news briefing in Washington on Friday, Qureshi strongly urged the US to help get Pakistan off the grey-list of global anti-money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at a decisive meeting in Beijing next month. A downgrade from the grey-list could result in crippling economic sanctions.
During the briefing, Qureshi said Pakistan had fulfilled its commitments to the US on facilitating the Afghanistan peace process, brought the Taliban to the negotiating table and assisted in releasing western hostages from insurgents — and had met FATF’s demands. 
The foreign minister reminded Washington: “Pakistan fulfilled your expectations. Now, we too had some expectations, what have you done (for us)?”— hinting Pakistan expected the US would help Islamabad in turn.
The US has consistently enlisted Pakistan’s help in facilitating rocky US-Taliban negotiations, which are reported to be inching near a peace deal this month.
“This is a sequel to Foreign Minister Qureshi’s visit, to coordinate the expected peace deal signing with the Taliban and potential US troops’ pullout from Afghanistan,” leading security analyst, Imtiaz Gul, told Arab News. 
Political expert Taimur Shamil told Arab News: “FATF is a tool to politically pressure Pakistan to do America’s bidding in Afghanistan. It... will likely continue till the Afghan issue is resolved.” 
Wells is expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during her visit, as well as foreign minister Qureshi.
Her last visit to Pakistan was in August last year.