BATHINDA: Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a cross border peace initiative, released the latest list of Indian and Pakistani civilian prisoners and fishermen who are lodged in jails on other side of the border. The list is as per data exchanged between India and Pakistan as on January 1, 2021 under the consular access agreement between the two governments that was signed in 2008.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti is the first such initiative that has released such a detailed list of cross border prisoners since 2014, which has been uploaded on its blog.
As per data procured by Ravi Nitesh, Founder-Aaghaz-e-Dosti, there are 49 Indian civilian prisoners lodged in jails of Pakistan. Among these, 32 persons have already completed their sentence including 18 who have completed their sentence more than five years ago but still could not return to their home country. The oldest case is of a person who completed sentence in 2004 but still could not return despite passing 17 years. There are two prisoners whose identity is unknown as they are hearing and speech impaired and both completed sentence. One prisoner is sentenced to death and six are undertrial prisoners who were arrested in the year 2019 and 2020.
On the other hand, there are 263 Pakistani civilian prisoners lodged in jails of India. Among these, 67 have completed their sentence including one prisoner who completed sentence in 1998 and a few others in years 2006, 2010 and 2014, but they could not return to their home country. There are 54 prisoners who are undergoing sentence, the status of 17 is unknown while 125 are undertrials. There are six prisoners whose particulars are unknown as they are speech and hearing impaired.
There are a total of 77 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails mostly caught during 2018 to 2020 and oldest cases are of 2013 and 2014, while 270 Indian fishermen are lodged in Pakistani jails.
“Those who have completed their sentences but still could not return to their home country, because of hurdles such as identity confirmation or NOCs from respective states. This should be considered on priority by both sides of the government and they should work to clear all such cases and to ensure return of persons in their home country without any further delay. The right to return to the home country is assured in Article 12(4) of International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Also, for persons who are declared impaired by respective states, there must be efforts to bring such cases for identity confirmation and their release should be expedited”, said Aaghaz-e-Dosti founder Ravi Nitesh, India chapter convener Devika Mittal and Pakistan chapter convener Raza Khan.
They said Aaghaz-e-Dosti have suggested some measures that should be taken by both sides in view of the spread of pandemic where protection of lives is important.
The list of prisoners and fishermen should be made public by joint efforts of both the governments. By doing so, there is a chance that advocates and civil society members would like to take such cases of cross border prisoners to offer legal and humanitarian support.
For civilian prisoners, whose sentence has already been completed, they should be released without delay.
Fishermen who are lodged on both sides should be released immediately as they are not criminals and there are no such criminal charges against them. They have been caught in the sea while fishing and they deserve to be made free but there should be a mechanism under which fishermen detention should be worked out to keep their jail term minimum.
Indian fishermen are jailed in large numbers in Pakistan and their boats are also seized. As per the information received, there are about 1110 fishing boats which are believed to be in captivity of Pakistan and these should also be released so that fishermen can get their resources back to survive livelihood.
The Indo-Pak Joint Judicial committee which was formed in 2007 needs to be revived without delay. It has not met since 2013. The government of Pakistan needs to organise the meet, said the peace activists.
Full list available at: https://aaghazedosti.wordpress.com/indo-pak-prisoners/