As the relationships between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are improving, it is the ideal time for Pakistan to speak to the kingdom on behalf of its struggling working community. Approximately 2 million Pakistani workers are currently working there and contribute to the economy. They make up the second largest immigrant population in the kingdom. In the year 2016, their remittances amounted to $5.8 billion.
Pakistan is heavily dependent on the labour migration to fight poverty crisis and support the economy. In the year 2017, Pakistan received remittances of $19.3 billion from its nationals worldwide making us the fifth highest recipient of remittances globally.
But unfortunately, they are left there without any support or aid. With prolonged non-payment of salaries, inadequate living conditions and unfair trials for Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia, our people suffer majorly. There are approximately 11,000 Pakistanis imprisoned abroad. Among them, 3309 are in Saudi Arabia, which also executes the highest number of Pakistanis imprisoned. Majority of them are facing drug charges and belong to financially weaker backgrounds and have fallen prey to recruiting firms and agents.
However, Pakistan has maintained a deaf ear towards them. In a report by Justice Project Pakistan on Pakistani prisoners in Saudi Criminal Justice System, these detainees didn’t even seek consular services from Pakistani embassy or consulate because they feel no help or assistance will be provided to them.
Detainees also said that Pakistani officials hardly visit them unlike representatives of other countries. They said that the only help provided to them is with deportation procedures.
Senator Sehar Kamran, who has previously spent time in KSA, said that the representatives are not interested in supporting the Pakistani community abroad and rather act like “viceroys”.
With terrible prison conditions and ill-treatment, Pakistani prisoners also face violations in the form of lack of access to legal assistance, pressure on detainees to sign confessions, long period of detention without charge or trial, accepting pre-determined prison sentences and ineffective translation services.
Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Watson said that Saudi Arab has made absolutely no effort to improve life for Pakistani immigrants.
‘’Despite years of promising reforms, Saudi authorities blatantly disregard the rights of both Saudis and Non-Saudis in criminal cases. Its treatment of Pakistani defendants shows just how far Saudi Arabia has to go improve the rule of Law’’ – she said.
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