UAE-Pakistan prisoner exchange deal still awaiting approval

More than 2,000 Pakistanis currently serving jail sentences in the UAE for minor offences are waiting to be transferred back to their home country.

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DUBAI// A prisoner exchange agreement between the UAE and Pakistan is still awaiting final approval before it can be completed.

Once approved, more than 2,000 Pakistanis currently serving sentences in the UAE for minor offences will be eligible to complete their terms in their home country.

"The Transfer of Sentenced Persons was signed in Abu Dhabi on February 26, 2012," said an official at the Pakistan embassy in the capital.

"However, the agreement would become operative once the ratification process on the UAE side is completed, which is expected soon."

Last month Pakistan's ambassador to the UAE, Jamil Ahmed Khan, said he was hopeful the deal could be finalised by the end of the year.

"This is a very sensitive matter between the two countries and I think they want to make sure everything is done according to the law and there are no loopholes," said Mobisher Rabbani, editor for Quiet Diplomacy, a monthly magazine that deals with diplomatic and International Affairs.

"This agreement doesn't just involve the Foreign Ministry but also includes judicial aspects and the Ministry of Interior so it is a complex agreement between the two countries.

"It's a case where both countries need to be satisfied with the agreement and I think they are just checking to make sure that is the case."

Once the treaty is signed the prisoners would be immediately transferred back to Pakistan.

"The Pakistan government has already ratified the agreement and so we are waiting for the UAE to follow suit," said Mr Khan.

"The reason it has taken so long is that each individual emirate must agree to it before it can be approved."

In total about 1,336 Pakistanis are in jail in Abu Dhabi and about 864 in Dubai.

The agreement does not apply to people convicted of money laundering, drug trafficking or murder.

Talks between the UAE and Pakistan have been ongoing since 2010.