Senate Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development in it’s meeting discussed the draft bill to amend the Immigration Ordinance 1979 moved by Senator Sassui Palijo asking for giving counselor protection to overseas prisoners. The Committee was told by the ministry of overseas Pakistanis and Foreign Affairs that the immigration ordinance deals with the overseas Pakistanis and comes under the overseas ministry but the matter of counselor access comes under the foreign office and its status cannot be changed by amending this ordinance. The Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfikar Bukhari told the Committee that his team is working on bringing some accumulative efforts to meet the objective of providing legal aid to the prisoners overseas.
The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Hilal-ur-Rehman here at the Parliament House on Tuesday and was attended among others by Senators Najma Hameed, Nighta Mirza, Sassui Palijo, Muhammad Ayub, Mirza Muhammad Afridi, Samina Saeed, Shaheen Ahmed Butt, Special Assistant to PM Zulfikar Bukhari, Amir Hassan Secretary Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, and senior officials from the ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Foreign Affairs, Interior, National Health Services, FIA, OEC, OPF.
The Committee was also given a briefing about rejection of Pakistani postgraduate medical degree by Saudi Arabia and deportation of Pakistani doctors and steps taken by government to overcome the situation. Officials from ministry of health and foreign affairs told that the government is in consultation with Saudi side for holding a delegation meeting or a teleconference to resolve the matter. The Special Assistant observed that the matter is of accreditation. He said that the Saudi government keeps updating their qualification criteria and this was also the result of this process for the whole international community and wasn’t specific to Pakistan. The Foreign Office told the Committee that only four Pakistani doctors were deported and the damage has been controlled by effective diplomatic efforts for the remaining 80-120 doctors.
The Committee was told by DG OEC about the death and disability compensation of overseas Pakistanis along with role of State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan that 10.8 million overseas Pakistanis are insured with OEC and so far OEC has paid 6447.814 million rupees in compensation against 15,179 claims. The Committee members called for increasing the per head compensation money.
A sub-Committee was constituted to look into the matter of closed Bank Accounts of overseas Pakistanis due to biometric verification system. State Bank official told the Committee that Overseas Pakistanis were given choice of giving identification documents for verification instead of biometric verification due to difficulties in coming back to Pakistan for verification and complaints are not received any longer of any problem. The Committee members were of the view that people are not aware of this proposal and many banks are not accepting these documents for verification and this is forcing people to send money through alternate channels. The sub-committee will look into the issue in detail.
During briefing by FIA on the issue of human trafficking and the steps being taken by government, the Committee was told that human trafficking is being done through land, sea and air routes and FIA officers are now deputed in countries to tackle illegal travel with officers already in Greece and Oman and sending attaches in Spain, Italy, UK, Turkey is underway. The Committee members were of the view that FIA has a very big role to play in this issue and it needs to run awareness campaigns in media for general public as well as tighten its grip on the travel agents who motivate people to go abroad illegally. Both sides agreed that it is a complex phenomenon that needs to be contained. It was told that 65 travel/visa agent offices have been closed and 400 cases were sent to FIA on which Committee sought report in next meeting.
Regarding the Pakistan China Prisoner Exchange Agreement the Committee was told that China has very strict policy on foreign prisoners but our extensive efforts have persuaded the Chinese side. The agreement has been ratified from Pakistan side and China has assured ratification in next two months. Upon asking the Committee was told that 88 Pakistanis are imprisoned in Chinese jails and if Hong Kong and Macau numbers are added it reaches to 350 prisoners. While currently 60 Chinese prisoners are jailed in Pakistan.