LHC takes Notice of Overseas Death Row Pakistanis
LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday granted time to the federal government until June 15 to reply to a petition seeking directions for the government to defend Pakistanis on death row in the Middle East.
The judge observed that the court would start proceedings at the next hearing even if the government did not submit a reply.
Barrister Sarah Belal, counsel for the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), submitted that in December 2014, the court had directed the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and the Bureau of Immigration & Overseas Employment to submit para-wise replies to the issues raised in the petition but they had not abided by the court orders.
She said 8,597 Pakistanis were imprisoned abroad. Of them, 4,357 are incarcerated in the Middle East alone, she said.
Belal said, “Since October we have seen 23 executions of Pakistanis in Saudi Arabi. Other countries are making representations to the Gulf states for their prisoners, but our country is exhibiting a lackadaisical attitude towards the lives of its citizens abroad.”
The JPP had filed a petition in the LHC on behalf of the families of Pakistani migrant workers facing execution in the Middle East. The petition includes the families of those whose loved ones had been recently beheaded in Saudi Arabia.
Belal said there had been longstanding concerns about the criminal justice system in the Middle East, falling short of international standards of fair trial – especially in death penalty cases. “Pakistani migrant workers imprisoned in the Middle East are at the mercy of local courts with no access to lawyers, impartial translators and counsellor assistance from the Pakistani diplomatic missions,” she said.
She said such Pakistanis faced punishments due to lack of understanding of the legal process, inability to communicate directly with the court and having no mechanisms of producing evidence from Pakistan in their defence. She requested the court to direct the government to defend Pakistanis languishing in Middle East jails.
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