In a peace overture, India has asked Islamabad to take back dozens of Pakistani nationals who have completed jail terms here. The Indian request came in the context of the exchange of the lists of prisoners in both countries that took place on the first day of the new year.
“India has also asked Pakistan to expedite response in the cases of 80 Pakistan prisoners who have completed their sentences and await repatriation for want of nationality confirmation by Pakistan,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement after India handed over a list of 249 civilian Pakistani prisoners and 98 fishermen in its custody.
In turn, Pakistan shared lists of 54 civilian prisoners and 483 fishermen in Pakistani jails, who it claims are Indian.
Out of the total number of Indian prisoners in Pakistan, Delhi has asked Islamabad to release 17 Indian civilian prisoners and 369 Indian fishermen whose nationality has been confirmed.
The MEA said India has shared details of the reconstituted Joint Judicial Committee and of the medical professionals who are expected to visit Pakistan to help the elderly and mentally unsound Indian prisoners in Pakistani custody.
Activists hail move
Activists have welcomed the bilateral move, saying this will help long suffering prisoners in each other’s custody. Peace activist Jatin Desai of Pakistan-India Peoples’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD reiterated that both countries in fact claim that the exact number of prisoners in each other’s custody is “a bit higher” than the official numbers shared.
Mr. Desai also said the cases of prisoners who have served jail terms should be taken up at the earliest.
“The process of nationality confirmation should be completed before the completion of the jail term and the persons should be immediately released as the jail term ends,” Mr. Desai said, urging both countries to grant consular access to prisoners.
The exchange of lists comes despite continued military tension, which has, however, not dampened humanitarian moves by both sides. In December 2018, Pakistan sent back Indian prisoner Hamid Nehal Ansari who had completed both regular and irregular prison terms. India subsequently released Pakistani Imran Warsi, who was awaiting repatriation after serving a jail term.