By Barrister Amjad Malik
Overseas Pakistanis wherever they are not only contributing to their homes and country but going through hardships and sufferings of unimaginable scale for their families and their future. Things are murky in gulf states as far as right of overseas workers are concerned as opposed to UK and USA.
Though the West took something else from us and our youth but still in Western countries workers rights are protected by equal pay and treatment at work places as well as free from ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ as enshrined in the Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950. Above all, millions have benefited from the dual nationality rights and permanent settlements upon passing necessary minimum years of residency in those countries. Hundreds are now members of their houses of legislators and civic centers (Members of Parliament and Councilors and Mayors) as opposed to Gulf States where an alien is an alien after all and in the end.
An Email dated 23 January 2014 of a friend from that region not only depict the vivid picture but also question the performance of our missions and institutor as far as public service is concerned as per our constitution 1973 and demand an immediate and just action. It depicts the picture which also incited me to write on this subject, when he diverts my attention considering me a lawyer of the Sharif’s many years ago, the email reads,
“Dear Sir, You must have been updated regarding the working condition and current situation pertaining to the Foreign workers, especially the Pakistanis. How the police and the security forces are dealing with Pakistani immigrant (immigrants from all the nationalities are facing very rough but at least their high commissions are at least responding but our people are don’t give a shit about that matter. This is the worst ever inhuman treatment that someone can imagine with the people who are living in Saudi Arabia. It is true that loads of people are illegally residing here, but in the end they are human beings as well”
Though my friend has raised issue of the workers in difficulty but experience shows that the treatment with the Legal migrant is not ideal in Gulf States. People even with valid resident and work permits are also in the same difficult situation as faced by the illegal immigrants. Unfortunately most of the security official whom they called ‘SHURTA’, are either not trained enough and or intentionally not able to handle the situation in hands which comply the human rights charter applicable internationally (right to basic food, hygiene, free from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and right to bail and advice through an attorney of choice).
The common complaints are that they raid at some targeted area and capture as many people as they can and put them on a big bus with cage and take them to the temporary detention centers. It is insulting for Muslims from that country where people come in search of blessings but are treated inhumanly. But there is just factor of illegal working too whilst coming for religious performance. Still it does not justify the state refusing the basic human rights whilst ensuring they are repatriated to their country of origin for overstaying their leave and or illegal working.
There are so many cases that even if you have a valid document to stay in the Saudi Arabia or gulf states even then during raid they will capture you and take you to the holding centers because they are in hurry and they have target to capture certain number of people And if your Sponsor (also called Kafil) fortunately comes forward to escort you, they charge certain amount in the name of Fee and after getting fee or fine they will release the person.
The treatment meted out to detained immigrants at the temporary prisons is a depiction of the countries lethargic approach over their citizens and or interest in their quick repatriation. In severe cold weather, prisoners are forced to sleep on the concrete floors with not enough cloths to cover themselves. They have to give money to get something to eat and even if they have to charge their mobile, they need to pay 5 or 10 Riyals. The temporary holding centers are overcrowded and people are even dying there in misery but no one knows where they are.
Recently The Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken a Suo Moto action to enquire about Pakistani’s captured as illegal workers waiting to be removed back home from Saudi Arabia.
News reported that Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has taken suo moto notice of the plight of 3,000 Pakistanis languishing in Saudi Arabia and has sought response of the Foreign Ministry within a week.On Thursday 6 Feb 2014, Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani took notice on an email sent by an overseas Pakistani, Ali Khan, a resident of Saudi Arabia registered through Expatriate Wing of Human Rights Cell of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Islamabad. The applicant stated that about 3,000 Pakistanis arrested by Saudi government were at Jeddah Deportation Centre for the last three months and few detainees had even passed away in the centre. He further stated that the exit/deport documents were to be prepared by Pakistan Embassy which was not taking the matter seriously. He prayed for an early action in the matter. Taking notice of the issue, the chief justice sought report from the Foreign Ministry in a week. But critics feel that like other matters this matter will go under the carpet as we may not want to spoil our relations with the rich country. But there is no harm on our end to enquire facilitate and repatriate our own quickly than the process and time is taking place.
I have no hesitation in quoting my friends last paragraph of his mail that, “Saudi Arabia is willing to buy JF Thunder Fighter Plane from us, they want the atomic technology to be transferred to them but they are not willing to give respect to the people of that country because they know that the Government of Pakistan will not bother even to think about that rather taking any action about that. But I truly believe that a time will come when everyone responsible will be held accountable, if not in this world, in the next world definitely. If you have some pain for the people of Pakistan, please raise this issue at every possible avenue to help those people who really deserve our attention. May Allah bless you for this noble act.”
I carefully read his letter over the week end I received and immediately On 10 February 2014, I have written to the Pakistani Premier in the following lines, “I will be grateful for the Prime Minister of Pakistan to direct the Pakistani Ambassador in Riyadh to take active, keen and strict notice of the condition of overseas Pakistanis in KSA and gulf states, and utilize all resources after a meaningful and purposeful consultation to have a report for you to suggest ways to improve the condition of overseas Pakistanis so that it does not jeopardize our ongoing good relations with the kingdom as well as it does not give rise to a public outcry. I am writing this letter in public interest to avoid any national embarrassment as Lord Chief Justices has already taken a suo moto notice on an email of a resident of KSA on the treatment of overseas Pakistanis in detention centre. I herewith share another to be joined with the other so that better understanding may be developed in order to see a better treatment, facilitation, placement and employment and safe and quick repatriation in case that is desired. I am quite certain that FCO will be working efficiently on the issue already. I am looking forward for a just conclusion in this matter and necessary directions in accordance with the law”.
Lord Chief Justices took a suo moto notice on an email of a resident of KSA on the treatment of overseas Pakistanis in the detention centre. It is a worthy cause that Government of Pakistan must consider setting up 3 grievances cell one each in gulf region, Europe and in United States so that people’s problems may start getting addressed at home soil.
Repatriation has become a corny subject whether it is the illegal workers in gulf or Europe. Traffickers keep putting unskilled Pakistanis on planes without thinking the future. Legal migration is extinct or comparatively less when we talk about Asia.
Government of Pakistan must try to use the full force of NADRA and try to make travel documents within 7 days notice as if a Pakistani resident ahs the benefit of NADRA swift and or identity card and or machine readable passport then preparing his travel document after matching his picture, and finger prints is a 24 hour job. Embassies in those countries must put their acts together and rather than enjoying the hospitality ponder to provide service to its country men so that people rather thank countering the host state can benefit from the efficient service of the country’s missions abroad thus avoid a backlash or tenacity in bilateral relations with those countries whether it is KSA, UK, and or USA.
I can only say to Pakistani government that they need to speed up action and direct some initiatives to aid and assist the overseas Pakistanis who churn their bellies, forego luxury, pass through hunger and service the deficit of our income and expenditure with its over 13 billion remittance. In fact, they are true public servants who sacrifice their today for our tomorrow. At least facilitate them with honor and dignity. I can not complain to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as long live the king but I can at least request my Pakistani rulers that at least, ‘Pakistan must look after at its own nationals at least’.
The Frontier Post