Lahore, 12 September 2019: It is distressing to learn of the beheading of yet another Pakistani citizen, Muhammad Imran, in Shumaisi Prison of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
A labourer from Chichawatni, Imran travelled to Saudi Arabia in August 2011 for employment and was detained upon his arrival at the airport in Jeddah. He was implicated in drug-related charges and was sentenced to death without access to meaningful legal representation. The entire trial was conducted in Arabic, a language he did not understand, with no translator. JPP has detailed how trials in the Kingdom fall short of providing basic rights to workers migrating from Pakistan in its report titled “Caught in a Web”.
There are close to 11,000 Pakistanis languishing in foreign jails, with over 7,000 of them in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia alone has 3,400 Pakistani prisoners and has executed at least 26 of them this year including a woman.
Families of death row prisoners are often not notified prior to their execution, depriving family members and loved ones the chance of a final goodbye. The bodies of those executed are also not returned — which is a gross violation of all legal and moral protocols, and Islamic injunctions. Imran’s family requests the Saudi government to change this inhumane precedent and return his body so that they may perform his last rites.
Embassy officials rarely visit prisons and they do not provide adequate protection to vulnerable Pakistanis in detention or distress. Pakistan has yet to implement a uniform consular protection policy that provides adequate protocols to officials for financial and legal assistance to Pakistanis imprisoned abroad, despite having a significant number of its citizens in prisons all over the world. Inadequate oversight and the lack of proper enforcement of existing protections is a literal death sentence for scores of Pakistanis who simply seek a better life and improved prospects for loved ones by working abroad.
JPP has constantly engaged with stakeholders in the government to draft and enact a consular policy, but no efforts have yet been made on that front. Similarly, a prisoner transfer agreement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia has failed to materialize despite Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman promising the release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners during his visit to Islamabad in February this year. In July 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights that even after five months, no Pakistani prisoners had returned from Saudi Arabia. On August 6, 2019, Minister for Overseas Pakistanis announced in a press conference that 1,350 Pakistani prisoners had been repatriated from the Kingdom. However, no details of these prisoners have been shared nor has a timeline been released for the return of the rest of the Pakistani prisoners.
Sarah Belal, Executive Director of JPP, adds: “The Kingdom is committing a grave human rights violation by continuing to sentence and behead Pakistani citizens with blatant disregard for due process. Despite being a close ally, KSA executes more Pakistanis than any other nationality. Not only has it not returned the promised 2,107 prisoners to Pakistan but it has also started to execute them. The Pakistani government must pursue and expedite the release of these people and ensure their safe return.”