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Over 16,000 have sought asylum in US, Germany & Serbia, Senate told

Around 16,628 Pakistanis have sought asylum in three countries including United States, Germany and Serbia during last five years, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told Senate on Tuesday. Through a written reply to the House, the Adviser said asylum was mostly sought claiming political persecution and denial of civil right and liberties and the nature of asylum requests restricted the host government from sharing information.

He said full information on their cases was not available who had sought asylum abroad. According to him, around 15,597 Pakistanis have sought asylum in Germany, 961 in the US and about 70 Pakistanis have applied for asylum in Serbia as per information received from the missions there.

Meanwhile speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister for Commerce Eng Khurram Dastagir Khan told the House during question hour that 134 Pakistani fishermen were languishing in Indian jails and the issue of their release was being taken up with Indian authorities. He said the arrest of fishermen was a humanitarian issue and remained high on the priority list of the government. He pointed out that the issue was constantly raised with India for release and repatriation of the fishermen. He said 68 fishermen were released by India during last year and 17 in first four months of that year. However, he said 134 Pakistani fishermen were still in various Indian jails.

The Minister said Pakistan and India had a well-established mechanism under which consular access was being granted to the prisoners. However, he stressed the need for releasing all the prisoners in each other's jails who had completed their sentences.

To a question of Senator Saeed Ghani about Foreign Office high officials seeking jobs in private corporation institutions after their retirement, Dastagir said that Section 14 of the Civil Servants Act, 1973 allowed a civil servant to seek private employment after retirement, but for employment within the first two years of retirement, prior approval of the competent authority was required.

However, according to the available record, no retired officer of the Ministry had sought permission to work after retirement, he added. But Ghani pointed out a private corporate institution had hired Pakistan's former High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik to exploit his contacts as high commissioner. According to him high officials of Foreign Office with sensitive jobs should not be allowed to work for private corporate institutions.

While responding, Dastagir said that at present there was no law except for Section 14 of the Civil Servants Act, 1973 and under which the civil servants could seek private jobs two years after their retirement. In a written reply the House was told by Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs that around 18 Foreign Office officers and 26 officials who had completed their normal tenure of jobs in various missions abroad were still working there due to various reasons. According to him, these officers and officials have either been transferred or delayed due to appointments of their successors.

Minister for Inter-Provincial Co-ordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada, in a written reply informed the House that Overseas Pakistanis Foundation had established nine facilitation counters at different airports to help the overseas Pakistanis. He said that in total 65 officials were posted at the facilitation counters.

Answering a question, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab Ahmad informed the House that work on Hassanabdal-Havelian Expressway was going on and would be completed in two years. He said it was being completed in two-phases at a cost of over Rs 30 billion.

He said it was a big project in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and would be a gift of the federal government for the people of the province. He said in addition different roads were being repaired in KP at a cost of Rs 4 billion. To a question, Minister of State for Education Mohammad Baligh-ur-Rehman said 13 universities and Higher Education Institutions, offering science subjects had been established in KP during the last 10 years.

He said under the initiatives of the government, Higher Education Commission was developing a proposal to establish either a university or a sub-campus of an existing university in each district of the country in next three years. He said HEC was also focusing on teachers training to improve the standard of education.

To another question, he said HEC had taken a number of steps to control and eliminate plagiarism in higher education. He said HEC had developed plagiarism policy to control plagiarism and circulated to all stakeholders and universities for compliance. He said plagiarism complaints received at HEC were forwarded to concerned universities for investigation. Recently many such cases had been settled through HEC Plagiarism Standing Committee and 34 faculty members were blacklisted, he added.

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Co-ordination Saira Afzal Tarar informed the House that international agencies monitoring polio had appreciated Pakistan's efforts to eliminate polio from the country. She said the main issue was the non-accessibility to certain areas. However, after launching operation Zarb-e-Azb and Karachi operation, the government had gained accessibility in areas like North Waziristan, South Waziristan, and Karachi where vaccination drive is receiving positive results.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2015