ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Lt. Gen. (retired) Bilal Akbar, said Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan would take up the issue of the release of Pakistani prisoners from Saudi jails when he visited the kingdom this month, Pakistani media reported on Tuesday.
Khan is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on May 7-9.
“Pakistan’s New Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Lt. Gen. (retd) Bilal Akbar, in an interview with the Saudi media, said memorandums of understanding in three areas will be signed during the premier’s visit,” Geo News reported. “He said a meeting related to prisoners’ release will be held during PM Imran Khan’s visit whereas the release of prisoners will be expedited with Saudi Arabia’s cooperation.”
“Hundreds of prisoners will be released from jails in Saudi Arabia and return to Pakistan,” the Geo News report said, adding: “This is not the first time when PM Imran has raised the issue of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Saudi jails.”
In February 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the release of about 2,100 Pakistani prisoners from the kingdom’s jails during a high-profile visit to Islamabad, Pakistan’s information minister had announced then. Saudi Arabia also signed investment agreements with Pakistan worth $20 billion on that trip.
The crown prince had “ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners”, after a request by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in a post on Twitter then.
Huge numbers of Pakistanis travel to the Middle East every year, with many working on construction sites or as domestic helpers. The remittances they send back are vital for Pakistan’s dollar-starved economy.