Monday, December 25, 2017
Zainab Z. Malik
The protections available to overseas Pakistanis in host countries depend largely on the efforts of Pakistan’s foreign service.
This is especially true for Pakistani nationals from impoverished backgrounds who are forced to travel abroad to seek employment in order to provide for their families back home.
As a result of their desperation, these migrants are easy targets for organised trafficking networks that claim to provide safe passage and employment in exchange for exorbitant fees. It is not uncommon for these trafficking networks to use migrants as carriers of narcotics, often to countries carrying harsh punishments for drug possession, including death penalty. Once apprehended, the migrants are abandoned to the mercy of a foreign criminal justice system, usually without independent translators and legal assistance.
In December 2014, the families of 10 Pakistanis who were facing execution in Saudi Arabia for drug charges approached the Lahore High Court (LHC), alleging that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) had failed to make any meaningful effort to provide consular assistance or legal support to the detainees, as required under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).
The 10 prisoners had been allegedly coerced by Overseas Employment Promoters (OEP), licensed by the Government of Pakistan, into travelling to Saudi Arabia under false pretences of gainful employment. Prior to boarding the aircraft, the prisoners, it’s claimed, were tortured with severe beatings and were forced to ingest heroin capsules.
“[T]he OEP agent injected [one of the 10 Pakistanis] with something that put him in a semi-conscious state. It was in this state that [he] was forced to swallow heroin capsules. He was then taken to the Islamabad airport where he was made to board the flight to Saudi Arabia.”
In another instance:
“[W]hen [another of the 10 Pakistanis] was ready to leave for Saudi Arabia through the OEP agent in Islamabad, he was kidnapped and taken to an unknow [sic] location. He was locked up for two days, beaten, threatened, held at gun point [sic] and forced to ingest drugs into his body. He was made to board a flight to Jeddah.”
The families claimed that despite repeated pleas to the Pakistani embassies in Jeddah and Riyadh, no contact was made by any member of embassy staff or official with either the prisoners or the family.
The prisoners were charged and convicted in Arabic without legal counsel or independent translators, and without the knowledge of their families. Four of the 10 have been executed, and their bodies never returned to their families. One of the deceased’s mother “does not believe that her son is dead and the ongoing trauma of not knowing the fate of her son has caused her to become severely mentally disturbed,” the petition states.
In response to the government’s blatant disregard for the lives of its citizens, the LHC ordered MOFA to formulate a policy detailing how consular protection and support will be provided to overseas Pakistanis imprisoned in other countries, who currently total over 9,000.
However, despite the LHC’s orders, no such policy has been drafted, and since the petition was filed, over 45 Pakistanis have been executed in Saudi Arabia, including the four petitioners. Following the Gulf countries, Iran emerges as the top destination for human and drug traffickers from Pakistan. A large number of Pakistanis have found themselves coerced into acting as drug mules across the border between Iran and Baluchistan.
In July 2017, four Pakistanis were executed in Iran after the authorities claimed that drugs were discovered in the truck that they were travelling in. This included a 10-year-old boy, whose only crime was to be in the truck at the time the drugs were discovered. In the same month, another Pakistani national, who had been arrested at the age of 13 on similar charges, was executed following eight years in a Zahedan prison.
Executions of children, regardless of their culpability, is a fundamental violation of international law and Pakistan’s own juvenile justice system.
There can be no greater violation of the VCCR and Pakistan’s own constitutional obligations than to stand by silently and allow the repeated executions of its children in foreign countries. Additionally, there are currently over 189 Pakistanis imprisoned in Iran, a significant majority of whom form part of the 5,300 prisoners of Iran’s death row for drug-related crimes.
With over 567 executions in Iran in 2017 alone for drug crimes, these Pakistanis face imminent executions.
As a result of mounting international pressure, the government of Iran has finally realised that the death penalty has not served as a deterrent to drug trafficking, and has been predominantly applied against low-level drug carriers rather than drug cartels.
Therefore, the country has enacted a law that severely limits its application by raising the minimum standard meriting a death sentence from 30 grams to two kilos for hard drugs and from five to 50 kilos for synthetic drugs.
The new law provides another chance at life for the large number of Pakistani nationals, including children, who have been awaiting their executions in prisons all over Iran.
It is the government of Pakistan’s responsibility to ensure that its nationals are provided with adequate legal representation and access to a fair trial as they apply for the conversion of their death sentences.
Foreign services and embassies all over the world have established procedures in place that provide protection to their citizens who come into conflict with the law in other countries.
This is especially true for countries that export large numbers of migrant workers such as Philippines, Malaysia, and Bangladesh, all of whom have taken forceful stances against host countries attempting to execute their nationals.
The government of Pakistan, especially its foreign service, must end its tolerance towards the abuses faced by its citizens in prisons all over the world.
The legislative developments in Iran serve as the ideal starting point for the Pakistan government in moving towards finally joining the ranks of states that are recognised for defending the rights of their citizens under all circumstances.
Only then can Pakistani nationals hope to be protected abroad.
By Anis Farooqui
Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto was later given death sentence by a Dictator Gen ZiaulHaq and his daughter succumbed to another Dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf.
From its diehard workers getting beaten up for protesting in military regimes to the leaders sacrificing their lives for democracy, the party has a long history of sacrifices. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was also targeted by the same fanatics who were responsible for Benazir’s murder. While in exile, she managed and successfully ran the party and later decided to return to the country for 2008 elections. Following United States-brokered negotiations with President and Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, she returned to Pakistan in 2007, and focused on issues like civilian oversight of the military and opposition to growing Islamist violence.
Upon her return, she was well received by people of Pakistan. Bhutto faced a suicide attack on her political rally in Karachi in which she remained safe, but she was assassinated in another such attack in Rawalpindi. For the masses, Bhutto was an iconic figure, but she faced much opposition from Pakistan’s Islamist lobby for her secularist and modernising agenda.
She nevertheless remained domestically popular and also attracted support from Western nations, for whom she was a champion of democracy and women’s rights. Several universities and public buildings in Pakistan bear Benazir’s name, while her career influenced a number of activists including Malala Yousafzai. Pakistani Senator Rehman Malik, a senior party leader and former interior minister, shared his views with me on the phone. On the day of her assassination, he was in the same motorcade that was targeted by suicide bomber. Rehman Malik’s vehicle was ahead of Benazir’s bomb proof SUV.
From its diehard workers getting beaten up for protesting in military regimes to the leaders sacrificing their lives for democracy, the party has a long history of sacrifices. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was also targeted by the same fanatics responsible for Benazir’s murder
Eye witness accounts suggest that Bhutto was urged by some followers in the crowd to come out of the sunroof, she opened the car’s escape hatch and stood up to wave back at them. A man stood within two to three metres of the car, fired three gunshots at her, and detonated a suicide vest packed with ball bearings. Bhutto was fatally injured; reports differ as to whether she was hit by bullets or by shrapnel from the explosion. Malik says that they were advised on radio to drive away from the scene as fast as possible and so they did.
Rehman Malik said he was shocked to learn that they were still able to make phone calls from the SUV they were in at Liquat Bagh, “I was surprised that our cell phones were still working, despite the then government’s promises of putting jammers in place to avoid detonation”.
After the blast, Bhutto was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital, but was declared clinically dead on arrival and attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful. Sources tell that on ‘someone’s’ direct orders, crime scene was power washed immediately, in the hospital no autopsy was conducted, and the body was swiftly transported to Chaklala Air Base.
When I asked Rehman Malik that why after ten years the perpetrators for her assassination are not still not behind the bars, he blamed it to on the then military dictator who was according to him totally non-cooperative.
Authorities in Pakistan claimed that the assassin had been a teenage boy from South Waziristan. They claimed they had proofs that the attack had been masterminded by Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban. One of the suspects also later became a target of a drone attack in the northern Miranshah.
The US Central Intelligence Agency concurred that this was probable and Mehsud believed that Bhutto’s pro-American and secularist agenda would undermine the Pakistani Taliban’s control of South Waziristan and hinder the growth of Sunni Islamist radicalism.
According to Malik, Musharraf advised Benazir about security threats and that she should not come in early December. He told BB “We will celebrate New Year here in Pakistan” and her response was, “I will come to Pakistan when I want to not when you want me to”. Musharraf clearly didn’t like that confidence. Benazir Bhutto was known to be bold and blunt and even General Musharraf had tough time dealing with her. Former Interior Secretary of State Rehman Malik mentioned that Musharraf asked him to convince BB to follow his timeline – an offer she declined.
The entire world believes that she wasn’t a threat to Pakistan, then who felt threatened by her return to the country? Where is Pakistan standing today on the war against fanatics? There may be some physical evidences of few military operations on ground, but brainwashing the nation continues by religious fanatics who are given space on national media. Bhutto is no more, mullahs like Khadim Hussain Rizvi are free to take out rallies on the streets of the capital and the true legacy of Jinnah has died.
In today’s Pakistan, progressive, liberal and moderate political leadership is maligned and portrayed as evil and corrupt. Democracy always seems to be at the verge of collapse. No democratically elected PM could survive against this mindset, and in my opinion, the real culprit is still at large.