Govt prepares consular assistance policy for detained/imprisoned overseas Pakistanis

ISLAMABAD: The government has acknowledged that there is no formal policy regarding Consular Assistance to detained and imprisoned Pakistanis abroad including those in Bagram detention centre.

Documents available with this scribe said that Ministry of foreign Affairs has forwarded a draft Policy to the federal cabinet for consideration on the directives of Supreme Court and Lahore High Court in different cases.

Ministry of Affairs informed the court that Bagram Detention Facility has been handed over to Afghan Authorities and all the 43 detainees have been returned to Pakistan.  The facility is now under the government of Afghanistan and presently 55 Pakistanis are in the said facility, shifted from other Afghan prisons.

It is certified that these prisoners are not under US control but are prisoners under the Afghan government. Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul is constantly in touch with the Afghan Authorities for seeking return and repatriation of Pakistani prisoners.

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As far as policy regarding Consular Access is concerned it submitted that there are only guidelines prepared by the Foreign Office 2010, however there is no formal policy. Protection of fundamental rights of the citizen in or outside Pakistanis is constitutional obligation of the government. Foreign Office will therefore formulate a Consul Access Policy keeping in view the Vienna Convention.

In this backdrop, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in consultation with other stakeholders including Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development, Law and Justice Division, Ministry of Interior, National Data Base Registration Authority (NADRA) Directorate General of Immigration & Passport (IMPASS) has finalized the policy to streamline the functions and efforts to provide assistance and relief to Pakistanis abroad.

The policy will serve as a guideline for all stakeholders striving to serve, assist and facilitate overseas Pakistanis as the Consular assistance is meant to extend support and assistance by Pakistan Missions to the Pakistani nationals abroad.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs further stated that for foreign nationals detained abroad, the course of consular protection is found in Article 5 and 36 of Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963. Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 pronounces the rights, duties and privileges of consulates and officials. The policy with defined broad contours of consular assistance is to be provided by all Pakistani Missions abroad including facilitation to be provided to the detained and imprisoned Overseas Pakistanis after the approval of the federal cabinet.

The broad feature of the policy includes; (i) Financial and legal assistance may be granted to destitute imprisoned  or detained oversea Pakistanis and for purposes of this policy the word destitute implies an Imprisoned or detained overseas Pakistani with no financial resources and family backing abroad; (ii) scope of financial assistance to destitute Pakistanis abroad cost of lawyer’s fee, payment of fines and cost of repatriation, (iii) financial assistance may be provided to destitute Imprisoned or detained overseas Pakistanis after obtaining approval from Inter ministerial committee (IMC) comprising Joint Secretary from each relevant Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interior Finance, Overseas Pakistanis & HRO and Law & Justice; (iv) funds available under Pakistan Community welfare & Education Fund (PCW&EF) may be utilized for provision of legal aid to Pakistan prisoners in detention centers and jails abroad, payment of fine, repatriation costs; (v) Separate funds available under head of account’ A03924-expenditure on Refugees, Security, and Prisoners & Detainees under Demand No.52 may be utilized after the recommendations of IMC have been approved by the Foreign Secretary; and (vi) Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development through Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) and Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BE&OE) provide financial assistance to overseas Pakistanis.

Additionally, OPF under its financial compensation scheme, will provide compensation in case of death and disability to the destitute families of the overseas Pakistanis registered with overseas Pakistanis (a) during the period of stay of Ops abroad; or (b) Within the period of three years from the date of permanent return to Pakistan, OPF provides and amount of Rs 400.0001- to the families of deceased Overseas Pakistanis and Rs. 300.0001- to disabled applicants The BE&OE under Emigration Ordinance 1979 and the rules framed there under provide for compulsory insurance of every emigrant worker going abroad. BE&OE has an agreement with State Life Insurance Corporation (SUC) since 1982.The compulsory insurance for a period of five years on payment of one-time premium of Rs 2500. The insurance cover IS extendable on optional basis An amount of Rs. one million Special In case of death of an Emigrant worker during the insurance period while compensation ranging from 10% to 100% of coverage is given in case of disability of the worker during the Insurance period.

Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development are responsible for welfare of Overseas Pakistanis and implementation of the Policy.

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