LAHORE : The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday inquired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) regarding the time required by the government for repatriating 44 Pakistanis imprisoned in Iran. During the proceedings presided over by Justice Shahid Waheed, the petitioner’s counsel barrister, Sarah Belal, prayed upon the court that the Iranian Deputy Minister for Justice and Human Rights Mahmoud Abbasi had said earlier in the year that 44 Pakistani prisoners were ready to be repatriated by Iran and the Iranian government was awaiting a response from Pakistani authorities.
Assistant Director for Iran and Turkey at MoFA, Saima Khan, implored the court that 14 Pakistani prisoners had been brought back from Iran while seven Iranians prisoners had been sent to Iran earlier in July under a prisoner swap agreement.
“The government was in touch with the Iranian authorities for the other prisoners and were working to bring them back,” she added. To a query by Justice Waheed about how much time is required to bring the other prisoners back, the representative of the federal government could not give a specific timeframe. Saima Khan submitted a list of Pakistanis confined in Iranian prisons before the court. However, Justice Waheed fixed the next date with direction to the concerned ministry to submit more details and update the court about the status of prisoners. Justice Waheed had been consistently hearing the case since 2018 which concerns the rights of Pakistani citizens imprisoned and or facing imminent execution in Iran and the duties of the Pakistani government to provide consular access and ensure their repatriation He had admonished the government in the past for not doing enough for these prisoners and delays in submitting responses in court.
On November 4, 41 prisoners from Sri Lanka were repatriated to Pakistan to serve out the rest of their sentences in their home country. Pakistan signed a similar memorandum of understanding with Iran in 2014 to allow Pakistani prisoners to be brought back home. Due to the fact that prisons are a hotbed for Covid-19, prisoners abroad ran a high risk of being infected and falling ill without the support of their friends and families.