ISLAMABAD - A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directives to the federal government to formulate a comprehensive policy for the protection and legal assistance of Pakistani prisoners detained in foreign countries.

Sakeena Bibi through her counsel Dawood Ghaznavi has filed the petitioner under Article 184(3) of Constitution and made secretaries Ministry of Law, Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development, DG Overseas Pakistani Foundation and secretary National Assembly as respondents.

Sakeena’s son along with other Pakistanis is detained in Thailand prison. She has contended that thousands of Pakistanis, detained in foreign jails, are in appalling condition due to the non-cooperation of Pakistani consulates.

The petitioner’s counsel said that in the 8th session of the National Assembly in 2014, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had released that 7,016 Pakistanis were detained in various countries, which has increased since then. “Nearly, 4,000 Pakistanis have been held in Saudi Arabia and the UAE prisons on different charges,” the petitioner said.

She contended that Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963, which has not become municipal law of Pakistan under Diplomatic and Consular Privileges Act, 1972, provides that “when a national of a foreign country is arrested or detained on criminal or immigration charges, the detainee must be advised of the right to have the detainee’s consulate notified, and that the detainee has the right to regular consultation with consular officials during detention and any trial.”

Sakeena said that law enforcement agencies of many countries implement these requirements through rules, regulations or policies. However, Pakistan has not made this article as municipal law of the land, and has not passed any legislation or a drafted policy. She stated that the apex court on May 20, 2010, directed: “The government makes vigorous efforts and arrangements to provide all necessary assistance for securing the release and repatriation of the Pakistani nationals detained/imprisoned abroad.”

The court had also directed that a special cell be established in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a special Inter-Ministerial Committee at joint secretary level, comprising Ministry of Interior, Finance, Law and Justice, Human Rights and Foreign Affairs be constituted to deal with these issues on a most expeditious basis.

The federal government instead of formulating a comprehensive policy has only drafted guidelines for streamlining the institutional mechanism for implementing the apex court direction.

The “agreement between the governments of Pakistan and Thailand on co-operation in the transfer of offenders and enforcement of penal sentences” was signed in 2012. The parties undertake to extend full co-operation in respect of the transfer of offenders in accordance with their respective national laws and this agreement.

The petitioner said that as per provisions of the agreement and relevant Thai legislation, those prisoners who have completed 1/3 of their awarded sentences have the right to request for transfer. She said that the petitioner’s son, Dildar Hussain, was eligible for transfer to Pakistan under the agreement, but such legal right was not enforceable, because certain provisions of Transfer of Offenders Ordinance 2002 were not operational.