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Council of Europe Convention: Govt to approach US, other signatories next month


ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan will make a formal request to the United States and all concerned quarters next month, indicating its willingness to sign the Council of Europe Convention on the transfer of prisoners, interior ministry officials told The Express Tribune.

“Pakistan will write to Washington and others next month,” a senior official of the ministry said while quoting Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as telling US Mission Deputy Chief in Pakistan Richard Hoagland, who held an urgent meeting on Thursday.

“The prime minister has formally approved the proposed draft seeking signing of Council of Europe Convention for exchange of sentenced prisoners,” Nisar told Hoagland, according to sources.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the interior minister in his cabinet meeting on Wednesday to pursue the matter vigorously. The federal cabinet gave a go-ahead to the interior and foreign ministries to finalise a prisoner swap deal with the US and 63 other signatories of the Council of Europe Convention. After attaining accession of the said convention, Pakistan will request Washington for early repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and other prisoners languishing in America.

Interior ministry’s officials familiar with Thursday’s meeting between Hoagland and Nisar told The Express Tribune that Pakistan had formally forwarded her case to the US.

“Although it was a brief meeting – Nisar put the agenda [prisoner-swap deal] before Hoagland,” a senior official said.

The Foreign Office will write to all signatories of the convention next month in order to finalise the process, which may take more than four to five months, the official added.

However, when asked about whether Pakistan had officially requested the US government regarding Dr Aafia’s repatriation, US embassy spokesperson Meghan Gregonis said this was an internal matter.

“Decisions on treaty accession are an internal matter and we would refer you to the Government of Pakistan,” she said.

She further said that the United States government was not in discussions with the Pakistan government on a prisoner transfer involving Dr Aafia Siddiqi.

“I would note that the United States and Pakistan are not parties to a common prisoner transfer agreement,” she stated.

Meanwhile, an official statement issued by the interior ministry stated that the meeting between two officials was a farewell call for Hoagland.

“Richard Hoagland of the US Embassy made a farewell call on the Federal Minister for Interior and Narcotics Control Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan,” the statement said, adding that Hoagland was accompanied by the newly appointed US Mission Deputy Chief Tom Williams.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2013.