Hundreds of Pakistanis freed from Saudi Arabia jails

A general view of Ha'er Prison in Saudi Arabia July 6, 2015. (File/Reuters)
Updated 02 November 2019

Hundreds of Pakistanis freed from Saudi Arabia jails

  • 1,245 Pakistani were released this year

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia released 1,245 Pakistani prisoners from its jails this year, while Pakistani representatives were in touch with the Saudi government for the release of many others, the prime minister’s special assistant on overseas Pakistanis said on Thursday.

In February, Pakistan’s Information Ministry announced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the release of about 2,100 Pakistani prisoners from the Kingdom’s jails during a high-profile visit to Islamabad. 

“Along with 1,245 prisoners released from Saudi jails, approximately 3,400 deported from Makkah, Riyadh, Dammam, Tabuk and other Saudi cities have also been released from deportation camps since the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari told Arab News.

More than 3,300 Pakistani prisoners are currently jailed in Saudi Arabia. Bukhari said in the last year, the government had succeeded in getting 2,559 Pakistani prisoners freed out of a total of 6,880 imprisoned in Gulf countries, including 1,200 in the UAE, 55 from Oman, 18 from Kuwait, 17 from Bahrain, 14 from Qatar and 10 in Iraq.

Most Pakistanis are in detention in the Gulf for forgery, drug trafficking, illegal border crossing, theft and bribery. Most of those released had been sentenced to between one and five years in prison.

Bukhari said the Saudi government was fulfilling its promise for the speedy recovery of prisoners but there was a problem devising the correct mechanism: “They (Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi Arabia) include deportees, while our prime minister asked for those prisoners jailed for different crimes.

“We are thankful to the Saudi government for the release of such a number, approximately 38 percent of the total,” Bukhari added. “We hope that the ongoing process will result in the release of more prisoners in the remaining two months of the year.”

He said relevant Pakistani ministries were working closely to make this possible.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is leading this effort while the interior and overseas ministries are working closely with them to provide relief to expats.”


Taliban say prisoner swap promised by Kabul fails to happen

Updated 1 min 1 sec ago

Taliban say prisoner swap promised by Kabul fails to happen

ISLAMABAD: Three Taliban prisoners who were to be freed in exchange for an American and an Australian national, both kidnapped in 2016, are still in custody in Bagram prison, north of the capital Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Friday.
The three Taliban prisoners did not show up at an exchange site that had been agreed upon with the US, though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said they would be freed.
Mujahid had no explanation for the no-show.
The three Taliban prisoners included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the fearsome Haqqani militant network. They were to be exchanged for American University of Afghanistan professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks.
Mujahid said the professors are still in Taliban custody.
In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Ghani said the “conditional release” was a very hard decision to make.
Prisoner releases were a key point during peace talks between the US and Taliban last year. US President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks in September, following a spate of violent attacks in Kabul that killed more than a dozen people, including a US soldier.
The prisoner exchange was seen as a possible door to restarting the talks. US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has crisscrossed the region in recent weeks meeting with Washington’s NATO allies, as well as Russia, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
President Ghani has repeatedly demanded his government be included in talks with the Taliban, who have refused saying the Afghan government is an American puppet.
Ghani is now in the middle of a controversial contest for his job as president following Afghanistan’s Sept. 28 elections, which drew allegations of widespread misconduct and fraud.
Preliminary results were supposed to be released on Thursday, but have once again been postponed.
Ghani had hoped a big win in the presidential polls would solidify his political position, but the recount of ballots has been challenged by his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power in Afghanistan’s coalition government.
That government was cobbled together after the 2014 presidential elections, which were so deeply overwhelmed by allegations of fraud that the United States stepped in to broker a power sharing agreement between Abdullah and Ghani.