LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to submit a detailed report on the efforts made to provide consular assistance to Pakistanis imprisoned in Iran in order to secure their repatriation.
“The state is responsible to represent these prisoners forcefully as required by law to expedite their repatriation and ensure consular assistance at all stages of their imprisonment,” argued Barrister Sarah Belal while apprising the court on the importance of expediting the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners.
She appreciated the efforts of MoFA’s Iran desk in holding consistent meetings with their counterparts in Tehran to bring back prisoners but noted that a consular policy was still pending.
According to a reply submitted by MoFA in the previous hearing, 102 Pakistanis are presently imprisoned in Iran. Of these, 65 prisoners have already been convicted and are eligible for repatriation to their home country under a Prisoner Transfer Agreement signed by the two nations in 2014. The agreement allows prisoners to complete their sentences in their native countries.
Due to the lack of a uniform consular policy, Pakistani citizens imprisoned abroad lack consular support and adequate legal representation, often suffering due process violations such as long periods of detention without charge or trial. The majority of Pakistani prisoners in foreign jails are arrested for non-lethal crimes such as drug trafficking, theft and violation of immigration laws.
Ali Haider Habib, spokesperson of Justice Project Pakistan, adds: We commend MoFA’s efforts in making representations to secure the repatriation of prisoners from Iran. Pakistan’s recent diplomatic efforts have resulted in repatriation from countries including Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates. However, a uniform consular access policy will ensure that such measures are implemented across the board and not contingent on the efforts of individual embassies.