KARACHI: Allowing an application for urgent hearing of a constitutional petition calling for swift repatriation of the female prisoners languishing in the penitentiaries of a Gulf state, the Sindh High Court has issued intimation notices to the federal authorities for hearing on August 12.
A non-government organization, Sarim Burney Welfare Trust International had approached the court seeking its directions for the interior secretary, the foreign affairs ministry, the provincial home secretary and the UAE government, through its consul-general at Karachi, to expedite the process of repatriating the female prisoners convicted by the courts of the UAE.
In the petition, it was stated that the former interior minister Rehman Malik had struck an agreement with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in February 2012 for bringing home the prisoners languishing in the UAE jails. However, no practical efforts were made in pursuance of the agreement by the Pakistani government since then.
The petitioner said that it had received several requests from the relatives of the sentenced female prisoners asking it to take up the matter of their repatriation with the authorities. According to the trust, the prisoners included Shamim Akhtar, Fashola Rohi and Sehrish Kazmi – sentenced for 25 years and Nazia Jahangir, Taiba Rani, Asma Ghulam and Sajida Farzand -sentenced for 15 years.
The petitioner’s counsel said that the trust had written to the president and the prime minister, the foreign affairs ministry, for the transfer of all the female prisoners but could elicit no response.
He argued that Articles 4, 9, 14 and 35 of the Constitution guarantee that no person shall be deprived of life and liberty, except in accordance with the law and that their family shall be protected by the state. He added the word ‘life’ included the right to live in a clean atmosphere, where fundamental rights were guaranteed and protection from encroachment on privacy and liberty was ensured.
He explained that under Article 8 of the agreement, the sentenced person may be transferred if they are a national of the administrating state.
The counsel said the prisoners should be transferred to their country of origin to serve out the remaining sentences in accordance with the provisions of the agreement.
The trust, therefore, requested the court to order the authorities to immediately transfer all the female prisoners from UAE jails to Pakistan.