A potential agreement will benefit Pakistanis jailed in the UAE for petty crimes, writes Haroon Janjua from Islamabad
UAE and Pakistan work towards prisoner repatriation agreement
The UAE and Pakistan have agreed to work on an extradition programme to allow Pakistanis jailed in the Emirates for petty crimes to return home.
The UAE Ambassador to Pakistan, Hamad Al Zaabi, and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Imran Khan on Overseas Pakistanis, Zulfikar Bukhari, met to discuss the agreement over the weekend.
“The Pakistan Embassy in the UAE has completed the paperwork for various Pakistanis prisoners in UAE jails and soon the two sides will take practical steps on this issue,” said Abid Al Ghafoor, UAE Embassy official heading Media and Political affairs in Islamabad.
More than 1,200 Pakistanis are currently locked up in UAE jails for petty crimes including bounced cheques and unpaid bills, according to the Pakistan ambassador to the UAE, Moazzam Khan.
In June, the UAE government granted a royal pardon to 442 Pakistani inmates jailed in Dubai and the northern emirates for minor crimes. Ambassador Khan responded by thanking the UAE for the goodwill gesture and calling on members of the community to respect the country’s laws.
This week, Mr Al Zaabi said the UAE was keen to work with Pakistan at the “highest political level”.
Human rights activists in Pakistan welcomed the move, saying an extradition scheme would benefit people who had committed minor crimes or acted in self-defence.
“Some Pakistani men and women facing imprisonment in UAE are extremely worried and some of them have committed crimes in self-defence,” said Sarim Burney, a Pakistani activist who runs a trust that fights social injustice in his home country.
Mr Burney, who has been involved in release of various prisoners from Gulf countries for decades, told The National: “This is the positive step from the current government and a noble cause of releasing the prisoners”.
A Pakistani woman jailed in Dubai after killing a man who sexually assaulted her said she hoped to be released under an extradition treaty.
“I was offered a job by a Bangladeshi man and upon reaching his residence he molested me, I picked up the paper cutter from the table and stabbed him as he was not leaving me,” said the woman, who asked not to be named.
“I was tense and called my friend to come, she came at the crime scene and we both were caught by the police. I killed him for self-defence, and my friend being innocent is facing the 25-year term with me,” she said.
Another Pakistani woman is serving a sentence for unknowingly transporting drugs at the request of her husband.
“My husband used me to deliver packets to several locations in Dubai. I was not aware what it was as I was monitored not to open the packet. I was arrested after few months of this activity and my husband left UAE, I don’t know where he is but he trapped me in this mess,” she said.
More than 1.4 million Pakistanis live in the UAE, making them the second largest nationality in the country. Both countries have strong economic relations and the UAE is the second biggest trading partner of Pakistan.
On Monday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, called Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan to discuss bilateral ties.