Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights in its meeting on Thursday was told that at present 114 prisoners in Riyadh and 128 in Jeddah are imprisoned due to pending payment of fines because of their financial situation and the fines begin from 8000 Pakistani rupees and go to 2.2 million. Other than this 3000 people are imprisoned in Saudi Arabia in criminal offences.
While discussing the matter of incarceration of a Pakistani national Mureed Abbas languishing in Saudi prison for the last three years due to non-payment of fines Nadeem Khan Additional Secretary Middle East told the Committee that he went to Saudi Arabia as a driver and had an accident for which he was imprisoned and fined. His sponsor has a claim of 27000 Saudi Riyals. He said that the ministry is trying to get information about the kafeel and then we will work for the fine to be waived off. He said that the government is trying to give relief to prisoners but cannot pay all the fines. He also observed that the problems being faced by the Pakistani community abroad is due to the high number of people, a disorganised community and lack of funds.
The Committee was surprised to know that despite commitment at highest level and repeated reminders by the Pakistani government Saudi Arabia has not yet shared the lists of prisoners to be released under the commitment by the crown prince.
The Committee members remarked that Pakistanis going abroad should be trained to behave well when outside the country and a fund should be maintained for paying their fines. The Committee observed that the Human Rights ministry maintains a fund to pay for the prisoners who are from weaker segments of society but it is permissible for only within the country. The Committee considered working out a proposal of bringing an amendment in Pakistan Penal Code or any other relevant law to bring the overseas prisoners also under its ambit. The Committee was told that there is a similar fund maintained by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis Foundation and a welfare fund maintained by missions abroad but they are for different purposes and cannot be applied to payment of fines. The Committee decided to hold a briefing of the fund of human rights and to write to provincial governments to feel their responsibility towards contributing in this fund. The ministry was also directed to call an inter-ministerial meeting to get an understanding about the available resources and formulate a mechanism. Ministry of Interior told the Committee that such an inter-ministerial committee is already working in the Foreign Office and their recommendations may be seen by the Committee. The Committee decided to call the members of the committee in next meeting along with their recommendations.
Regarding decrease of admission quota for Balochistan province students in Punjab University, the Vice Chancellor of the University told the meeting that in light of the letter written by the Committee recommending increasing the number of students, a meeting of the academic council has been called on July 8, 2019 and once it sends positive recommendations the Vice Chancellor can call a meeting of the syndicate for its approval. He said that he can only take up the matter and request the bodies to discuss and give opinion but the decision has to be taken by the Academic council and syndicate. The Vice Chancellor said that he has not found the figure of 106 students in record and the only duly approved decision is of one seat in each department of the university. Special Secretary Punjab Higher Education Department suggested taking the admissions possibility ahead of the Punjab University and exploring possibility of allocating seats for Balochistan students in other public and private sector universities simultaneously with the exercise in Punjab University. The proposal was well taken and appreciated by the Committee. Vice Chancellor assured the Committee that he is taking the issue in good intention to the decision making bodies and hopefully a positive decision will come out because the chancellor is also in favour of increasing the number.
The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar here at the Parliament House on Thursday and was attended among others by Senators Muhammad Tahir Bizenjo, Kamran Micheal, Usman Khan Kakar, Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini.