LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) how much more time the government required to bring back 44 Pakistan nationals imprisoned in Iran.
Judge Justice Shahid Waheed on Monday resumed hearing in a petition by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) on behalf of the families of Pakistan nationals imprisoned in Iran for alleged drug offences.
According to the petitioner, Barrister Sarah Belal, as per the government’s response, there were 174 nationals currently detained in Iran, 75 per cent of them on charges of drug trafficking.
Earlier this year, Iran Deputy Minister for Justice and Human Rights Mahmoud Abbasi said 44 prisoners were ready to be repatriated by Tehran and the government was awaiting a response from their Pakistan counterparts.
Justice Waheed has been hearing the case since 2018 and has admonished the government in the past for not doing enough for the prisoners and for delays in submitting responses in court.
During the last two hearings, Justice Waheed had ordered MoFA to appear in person before the court, which had not been complied with.
“Finally on Monday, the Assistant Director for Iran and Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saima Khan appeared in person and submitted a list of Pakistanis confined in Iranian prisons,” the Justice Project Pakistan, which advocates for prisoners’ rights, said in a statement.
“Justice Waheed then went through the submitted documents and questioned how much more time the government needed to bring back these prisoners.”
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.
“Earlier this year, Iranian authorities pledged to release thousands of foreign nationals from their jails on humanitarian grounds, including nearly 2,000 Afghan nationals,” Ali Haider Habib, spokesperson of Justice Project Pakistan, said.
“It has been nearly six months since Iran expressed its willingness to release 44 Pakistani prisoners and we hope our government will take all steps necessary to unite them with their families very soon.”