ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has ordered top officials of the interior, finance and the foreign affairs ministries to appear before the court on Thursday (May 20) and explain measures taken for repatriation of Pakistani nationals languishing in jails of different countries.

A three-member bench took up petitions about the missing people and asked secretaries of the three ministries to come prepared with plans envisaging measures being taken to secure release of Pakistanis detained in foreign countries. The court observed that there was lack of concrete efforts to secure the release of the prisoners.

Around 425 Pakistanis are in jails in Malaysia and 147 in Thailand, but only a few Pakistani missions were taking practical measures for their release because of financial constraints and lack of capacity to provide legal assistance to these prisoners.

The court said it was the duty of the government to get these prisoners repatriated because there should be no hurdles after execution of repatriation treaties with countries like Thailand. It deplored that the finance ministry had not been approached to arrange finances for bringing these Pakistanis back to the country.

The court said that the interior ministry had also failed to take concrete steps in this regard.

During proceedings, Justice Javed Iqbal observed that these people were Pakistanis and if they had committed any crime they should get legal assistance or efforts should be made for their return to Pakistan if they had completed their sentence.

The court said that no action was taken prior to courts’ order, adding that the situation in Afghanistan was alarming because nobody bothered about these prisoners whereas their plight deserved special attention.

“Every direction given by this court is under the law and powers conferred upon it by the constitutional provisions and nothing else,” Justice Iqbal observed. He said the court was asking for provision of legal assistance by the government to secure release of these prisoners.

Justice Tariq Parvez suggested that the government should approach some NGOs or allocate a special fund for repatriation of the prisoners.

Justice Khosa observed that the prime responsibility of a court was to secure fundamental rights of the people and the interior ministry should at least explain its efforts.

Referring to a recently-established Judicial Commission that began its probe into cases of missing persons in Islamabad last week, the court ordered the three-member body to take up all cases pending with the apex court in addition to new cases.

Mr Agha informed the court that the commission had heard complaints about the Lal Mosque issue and it would be meeting in Karachi next week to continue proceedings on complaints about missing people from Sindh and certain parts of Balochistan.

The three-member bench comprised Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa.