Around 11,000 Pakistanis languishing in foreign jails, await legal aid from Pakistan

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Zubair Quresh

An art installation titled ‘’Lost/Un-found” at a local park of Islamabad drew public attention towards the plight of Pakistanis imprisoned in jails abroad on different charges.
The event held in connection with the International Migrants Day. The event was organized by Justice Project Pakistan an organization working for the release of the Pakistani prisoners in foreign jails in collaboration with their families and relatives.
International Migrant Day is observed every year on December 18 and in Pakistan this year’s theme was conceived and developed by artist and storyteller Fahad Naveed.
The weak regulation of labour migration in Pakistan leaves thousands of mostly low-wage Pakistani male workers vulnerable to human trafficking, forced labour, ill-treatment in detention overseas, and even the risk of death. While talking to Pakistan Observer, Fahad Naveed, a graduate in news and documentary film from New York University, said the installation highlighted the plight of nearly 11,000 Pakistanis languishing in foreign jails. Of these prisoners, a large number is imprisoned in Europe and Gulf countries, almost 3,000 in jails of Saudi Arabia alone, he said.
This installation is an attempt to raise questions about the thousands of migrant workers in jails around the world and by placing 1,100 suitcases – a fraction of the number of prisoners – in the open spaces of the Fatima Jinnah Park. To a question, he hoped to to get visitors to take pause and think about those who are locked up, and do not enjoy blessing of freedom. The families of those imprisoned abroad have appealed to the government to bring their loved ones back and ensure consular protection for them. Senator Seemi Ezdi also heard the plight of their ordeals and assured the government was committed to providing relief to them
Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan Sarah Belal while speaking on the occasion said there was a power in art to move the coldest of hearts. “We have brought this installation to the people of Islamabad for them to understand the horrors migrants face in prisons abroad and what their families go through back home,” she said.
To a question, she said the government must wake up to this nightmare and do all in its power to ensure these indigent prisoners are not deprived of their fundamental human rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan.