Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Secretary General Farhatullah Babar has said that only about 200 Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails had been freed and repatriated out of the over 2,000 promised by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman during his recent visit and asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to pursue the release of the remaining prisoners with the Crown Prince whom he had described as “Pakistan’s Ambassador in Saudi Arabia”.
In his keynote address at the launch of a report by the Justice Project Pakistan on the condition of Pakistan’s Migrant Workers in Gulf countries, Farhatullah Babar said that from malpractices in the recruitment process to human trafficking to forced labour, to using workers as drug mules to ill treatment in detention centres in host countries and poor consular service were issues that had never been addressed systematically and in right earnest by any government.
He said that the law prohibits use of exploitative sub agents in the recruitment process but these unscrupulous elements continued to thrive in human trade. The parliament can only make laws but has no power to implement them, he added.
The SG PPP said the parliament enacted law in 2013 to prevent banned outfits from resurrecting under other names but they have been functioning with impunity.
Farhatullah Babar called for preparation of a comprehensive data base on issues faced by migrant workers, consular protection policy and agreements with host countries on transfer of prisoners and transportation of dead bodies.
He said the absence of competent professional translators for defence in Saudi courts had resulted in many poor migrant workers landed in jails and called for institutionalizing a mechanism for this purpose. He also asked for the ratification of International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and the Members of Their Families.
The PPP SG said that for raising effective voice against the maltreatment of Pakistani prisoners in Gulf jails Pakistan should also revisit its own criminal justice system which he said was totally broken.
How can our voice be effective if there were internment centres in tribal areas and in KPK which were like Guantanamo Bay prisons where inmates were kept incommunicado without trial and citizens mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
Farhatullah Babar said Pakistan should have a comprehensive refugee law to protect some basic rights of millions of refugees on its soil. The Afghan refugees, he said were first welcomed as fighters in the cause of Pakistan but were not being shunted and dubbed as terrorists and enemies.
If we give some minimum rights to refugees on our own soil, fix broken justice system and end internment centres we will be on a higher moral ground to demand rights for Pakistani migrant worker, he maintained.
The launch ceremony was also addressed by PPP Senator Sassui Palejo and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Andaleeb Abbas