ISLAMABAD: The government has acknowledged that there is no formal policy regarding consular assistance available for detained and imprisoned overseas Pakistanis including those in Bagram Detention Centre.
Documents available with this scribe state that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has forwarded a draft policy to the federal cabinet for consideration on the directives of the Supreme Court (SC) and Lahore High Court (LHC) in different cases.
The Ministry of Affairs informed the SC that Bagram Detention Facility has been handed over to Afghan authorities and all 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 after being shifted from other Afghan prisons. It is certified that these prisoners are not under US control but are under the Afghan government.
The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul is constantly in touch with the Afghan authorities for the return and repatriation of these prisoners.
“As far as policy regarding consular access is concerned, it submitted that there are only guidelines prepared by the Foreign Office in 2010; however, there is no formal policy. Protection of fundamental rights of a citizen in or outside Pakistan is a constitutional obligation of the government. The FO will therefore formulate a consul access policy keeping in view the Vienna Convention,” said an official of the embassy.
In this backdrop, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in consultation with other stakeholders including the 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 finalised the policy to streamline the functions and efforts to provide assistance and relief to Pakistani nationals abroad.
The policy will serve as a guideline for all stakeholders striving to serve, assist and facilitate overseas Pakistanis as consular assistance is meant to extend support and assistance by Pakistan missions to the Pakistani nationals abroad.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry 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, and the policy with defined broad contours of consular assistance to be provided by all Pakistani missions abroad including facilitation to be provided to 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 the Pakistan Community Welfare & Education Fund (PCW&EF) may be utilised for the 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 utilised after the recommendations of IMC have been approved by the Foreign Secretary; (vi) the 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 Rs400, 001- to the families of deceased Overseas Pakistanis and Rs300, 001- 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 is Rs2500. The insurance cover IS extendable on optional basis of an amount of Rs one million.
In case of death of an immigrant worker during the insurance period while compensation ranging from 10 per cent to 100 per cent of coverage is given in case of disability of the worker during the insurance period.