May 11th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Two years have passed since a royal promise was made to send back Pakistani prisoners from Saudi Arabia. Now over 2000 Pakistani prisoners will be repatriated under an agreement signed between Islamabad and Riyadh on the exchange of convicted prisoners.
In a tweet, Zulfi Bukhari, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis, said the agreement on the transfer of prisoners were signed during a visit of the Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia on May 8.
“Pakistan & KSA have signed a prisoner transfer agreement for the return of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners languishing in KSA jails,” Bukhari tweeted.
In 2019, Pakistan had requested the visiting Saudi Crown Prince to release over these 2,000 Pakistanis jailed in the kingdom on petty offences and visa violations. The Crown Prince had promised to release the prisoners through a royal decree. However, only over 500 Pakistani prisoners were released under the royal decree while the rest still languished in Saudi jails.
In October 2019, an official of the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation had informed the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development that 579 Pakistani prisoners had been released by Saudi Arabia under the royal clemency.
In apparent reference to the Saudi promise, Bukhari tweeted that the signing of the agreement would expedite the work on a promise made by the Saudi leadership in 2019.
Separately, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Federal Minister for the Interior, has announced that the prisoner deal will immediately lead to the return of 1,100 Pakistani prisoners languishing in Saudi jails.
The interior minister said Riyadh is also willing to transfer Pakistanis imprisoned for serious crimes, adding that Rs 1 billion in aid was needed to secure the release of hundreds of prisoners who have to pay fines.
However he added that 30 Pakistani prisoners have been sentenced to death by Saudi courts over murder and drug offences and could not be released.