Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday informed the Senate that around 1,500 Pakistanis were imprisoned in different jails of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on minor and major crimes.
Replying to a question, the advisor said they were detained on charges of illegal stay, theft/robbery, fraud/embezzlement, murder and drug related crimes.
He said the Embassy of Pakistan, Abu Dhabi and Consulate General of Pakistan, Dubai had separate community welfare wings which catered to the problems faced by the Pakistani community in the UAE.
The two community welfare attaches kept a constant liaison with the jails authorities in the UAE, he said and added that consular access to the prisoners was regularly obtained to monitor the welfare of Pakistani prisoners and extend the needed facilitation.
The advisor said for deportation/repatriation of the illegal immigrants, the missions issued emergency travel documents after ascertaining the nationality in each case.
He said a bilateral Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons had also come into force between Pakistan and the UAE and modalities for its implementation were being worked out.
Sartaj said at an average, one weekly visit was paid by the community welfare attache (CWA) and his staff to the various jails in Abu Dhabi and Al AiN. During the period 2010 to 2012, around 150 visits were made to the jails by embassy officials, to ensure well being of Pakistanis, he said.
He said Pakistani missions in the UAE provided prompt relief to the temporary detainees. As many as 6,958 emergency passports were issued for repatriation of such detainees in 2010, 5363 in 2011 and 7,287 in 2012, he added.
He said where necessary and admissible under the rules, payments were made for court fee, air tickets for destitute Pakistanis, lawyer fee, etc. On special occasions such as Eid, the missions provided small financial assistance to the Pakistani prisoners via the jail authorities, he added.
The advisor said at an average the Community Welfare Wing arranged five to six telephonic contacts of the prisoners with their families in Pakistan per day. Meetings were also arranged with the families and friends, as and when requested, and permitted under the local laws, he added.
He said the UAE authorities permit a prisoner to maintain only five contacts outside, including his relatives, lawyer and the embassy.
To another question, the advisor informed the House that 112 Pakistani prisoners were awarded various punishments, including death sentence, during 201012.
He said the information gathered during the jails visits showed that 11 Pakistani prisoners were awaiting capital punishment on drug trafficking charges and one on robbery. Others were arrested on various charges: forgery of lqama /resident visa, immoral activities, use of hashish and quarreling.
He said the Legal Aid Desk comprising three “legal consultants and one Arabic translator” regularly visited the jails and deportation centers to provide legal aid to the Pakistani prisoners. Emergency passports were also issued to those Pakistani prisoners who were without any valid travel documents, enabling their repatriation to Pakistan, he said.
The advisor said Saudi authorities were approached for waiving off fines or payment of the fines by their Bait ul Maal.
Efforts were also made for release of the Pakistani prisoners, charged with petty offences, under the Royal Amnesty given during the holy month of Ramadan, he added.
He said amounts of Rs. 7,561,422.00 and Rs. 3,777,488.00 were paid during 201112 and 201213 to Saudi authorities in lieu of the fines to release Pakistani detainees.