Pakistan to revive prisoner exchange program with UK

In this file photo, a Pakistani policeman closes the main gate of the Adiala Jail, in Rawalpindi, Nov. 17, 2006. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2018

Pakistan to revive prisoner exchange program with UK

  • Formulated in 2007, the treaty was suspended by Islamabad eight years later
  • Move to ensure prisoners serve sentences in their respective home countries

ISLAMABAD: As part of the an intitiative to ensure justice and accountability, the federal cabinet on Thursday approved plans to renew a prisoner exchange program with the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
The Prisoner Exchange Treaty (PET) was part of an understanding reached between the two parties in September this year.
"The UK-Pakistan prisoner transfer agreement will be important for both countries," Thomas Drew, British High Commissioner to Pakistan said on Friday, adding that the move would "allow prisoners of each country to serve their sentences in their home country”.
However, before the PET is implemented, it needs to be ratified by the British parliament first. The deal is a vital component of a greater initiative formulated to tackle issues pertaining to money laundering, theft of assets, and most-wanted criminals, through an adhoc extradition process agreed upon by the two main countries.
Eradication of corruption and ensuring accountability featured heavily on Prime Minister Imran Khan's post-election agenda and continues to be an integral part of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party's manifesto.
Clarifying what the treaty entails, former Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, Ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hassan, told Arab News: “This prisoner exchange agreement does not mean (full) extradition treaty. Even during my time as HC, there was an understanding over exchange of prisoners."
A formal extradition treaty between Pakistan and UK does not exist despite Islamabad's tireless efforts in trying to persuade the British government -- which has signed treaties with more than a 100 countries, including India -- to ink a deal.
"Pakistan until now has not succeeded in signing that treaty. PM Khan’s government made fresh efforts to arrive at an understanding on the extradition treaty. And there was a sort of breakthrough when British Home Secretary Sajid Javed visited Pakistan and held talks with government officials. While extradition treaty remains an elusive dream, the two governments did reach an understanding over the transfer and exchange of prisoners," Hassan, Pakistan’s longest serving High Commissioner to London, said.
Terms and conditions for ratification of the previous treaty were exchanged on August 19, 2008, but the treaty was suspended by Pakistan in 2015 under the directives of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
This was after Britain lodged a complaint citing a violation of the treaty, whereby it stated that criminals repatriated from the UK had been released by Pakistan without completing their sentences. This forced Islamabad to suspend all similar treaties until the "formulation of a transparent policy”.
On it's own, the general principal of the treaty states that: “A person sentenced in the territory of the state of one party may be transferred to the territory of the state of the other party, in accordance with the provisions of this agreement, in order to serve the sentence imposed on him."
Despite the lack of an official policy, Pakistan last month extradited a fugitive from Rawalpindi to UK. Arrested in 2015, he was wanted for killing eight members of a family in 2002 and was the second person to be extradited to Britain.
According to the British Home Office, the UK is open to lodge an extradition request to Pakistan, or to any other territory with which it does not have an extradition treaty. It is for the territory concerned to decide whether or not it should act on such a request, according to its own domestic law, renowned British journalist Owen Bennet Jones said in his article on a Pakistani man charged with double murder and extradited to UK in 2016.
This arrangement, however, does not fulfill the federation or its corruption watchdog’s (National Accountability Bureau) exhaustive pursuit to bring back individuals residing in England in the absence of an extradition treaty.
Eradication of corruption and ensuring accountability featured heavily on Prime Minister Imran Khan's post-election agenda and continues to be an integral part of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party's manifesto.
Two of Sharif's sons and his loyalist Ishaq Dar, the former finance minister, have been declared absconders by Pakistan's court but are safely residing in England, as Pakistan has not been able to secure their apprehension or extradition from London.
Hassan reasons that the likelihood of UK agreeing to sign the treaty -- based on a commitment which PM Khan made to the nation to bring back absconders, former state officials and individuals charged or suspected of  embezzlement, corruption, and crime -- remains in limbo -- even as the former envoy highlighted the country’s checkered history and human rights track record.
"Public opinion in Britain and the members of parliament are wary of Pakistan’s human rights record. It is generally feared that the treaty would be abused to seek extradition of Pakistan’s political dissenters who often find safe refuge here from a revengeful government," Hassan said, citing the examples of former political leaders who took refuge in the UK and "carried on their political struggle".
"Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and currently Altaf Hussain, besides hundreds of others, including members of minority communities accused of blasphemy have taken refuge here," he said.


Pakistani PM calls in army to help clean up rain-battered Karachi 

Updated 30 July 2020

Pakistani PM calls in army to help clean up rain-battered Karachi 

  • Directs National Disaster Management Authority chief to reach Karachi immediately and start cleaning up in aftermath of recent rains
  • Nearly a dozen killed as rain leaves Karachi residents wading through water amid stalled vehicles and trash flowing through the streets

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday night he had called in the Pakistani military to help in efforts to “clean up” the country’s biggest city and commercial hub of Karachi after torrential rains left nearly a dozen people dead.

Rain battered Karachi this week, leaving residents wading through waist-deep water amid stalled vehicles and trash flowing through the streets.
“I have asked the NDMA Chairman to go to Karachi immediately and start the clean up in the aftermath of the rain,” Khan said in a tweet, referring to the National Disaster Management Authority, which is run by a serving general. 
“I have asked the Pak army to also help in cleaning up the city,” the PM added. 
The provincial government in Sindh says the modernization of Karachi, including of its drainage and flood management systems, is a major goal to revitalize Pakistan’s largest city and economic powerhouse, long plagued by traffic congestion, poor road infrastructure, transport, water and electricity shortages and rampant crime. 
But politicking by local parties and wrangling between different levels of government have stalled Karachi’s growth for decades and continue to hold back development causing even minor spells of rain to leave the city paralysed.