190127 Zulfiqar Bukhari
Zulfiqar Bukhari, Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, (right) meeting with Dubai police chief on January 27, 2019 Image Credit: Dubai Police

Dubai: Pakistan government has intensified efforts to get its citizens released from jails in the Gulf countries.

The efforts are being made through the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and the main focus is to get the prisoners released from jails in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Gulf News has learnt.

The campaign was intensified after the recent visit of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bukhari to Gulf countries.

During his visit to UAE, Bukhari had met the Dubai Police Chie Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Merri to discuss the issues of Pakistani prisoners. They agreed to form a committee comprising of officials from the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai and the Dubai Police.

Pakistani Consul General Ahmad Amjad Ali told Gulf News that the first meeting of the committee will be held later this month to discuss the formalities regarding the release of prisoners.

Ali said that their focus is to help those prisoners who are in jail on minor crimes and small fines. He said that they would also help those who have completed their term but cannot afford to buy tickets to go back home. “We are not going to take up cases of prisoners involved in heinous crimes such as murder or drug cases,” he said.

There are around 2000 Pakistani prisoners in jails in Dubai and Northern Emirates. Bukhari told a meeting of the National Assembly’s standing committee for overseas Pakistanis in Islamabad that the government would focus more on release of prisoners from the UAE following its efforts for the release of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

To that end, he said that the Ministry for Overseas Pakistanis has constituted a legal team for their assistance.

Bukhari said the Saudi officials would release more than 2000 prisoners within three to four weeks.

Federal Secretary for Overseas Pakistanis Pervez Ahmed Junejo, briefing the committee and the ministry had prepared the draft for a new immigration policy which would be shared with the foreign ministry and the departments concerned at the provincial level.

No database available

According to Pakistani media reports, the secretary alleged corruption and neglect in the Ministry for Overseas Pakistanis in the past and informed the committee that a national immigration policy had never been constituted and there is, therefore, no database currently available of Pakistan’s manpower.

He further said that the department would prepare a national database for employment which would be used to train manpower according to international standards.

Committee member Mehreen Razaq Bhutto expressed concern over the ministry’s lack of knowledge regarding national manpower and raised questions over the performance of the ministry, saying that the ministry’s performance was not on par with international standards.

Bukhari said that the ministry faced many issues due to the neglect of previous governments and time was therefore needed to rise to international standards.