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India, Pak form committee to discuss prisoners

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
March 05, 2007 20:58 IST
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India and Pakistan have set up an eight-member committee of retired judges to ensure humane treatment of prisoners in each other's countries and their expeditious release on completion of sentences.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said India has forwarded the names of four retired judges, while Pakistan has already given its list of four judges to India.

The committee comprising judges from superior judiciaries of both the countries will propose steps to the two governments to ensure that prisoners of the two countries languishing in each other's prisons were treated humanely and are released expeditiously on completion of sentences, Aslam told reporters on Monday.

Currently 513 Pakistani prisoners are held in Indian jails, including 50 fishermen and 463 civilian detainees.

Pakistan, during the last four years, released 2637 prisoners, including fishermen, whereas India released 713, she said.

India has only released a handful of prisoners to reciprocate to the release of its nationals from jails in this country, saying that Pakistani prisoners have not completed their prison terms, Aslam alleged.

However, some of the prisoners were behind bars since 1996, she said.

Aslam also released a note refuting allegations of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee few days ago that Indian prisoners were ill-treated in Pakistani jails due to which some of them became mentally imbalanced.

Claiming that Pakistan has not received the kind of cooperation it expected from India to provide greater attention to the plight of prisoners, Aslam said Islamabad hoped that the committee would suggest procedures to both the governments to provide humane treatment and ensure expeditious release of prisoners on both the sides.

She claimed a number of Pakistani prisoners released by India have lost their mental faculties.

Out of the 152 Pakistani prisoners released by India on Sept 12, 2005, 40 had lost their mental balance while only one Indian prisoner released by Pakistan was mentally unstable.

Also, out of the 24 Pakistani civilian prisoners released by India in December last year, eight had lost their mental balance, she alleged.

Aslam said many Pakistani prisoners continue to languish in Indian jails even after completing their prison terms.

"The ruling of the High Court of Indian Punjab to grant compensation to such prisoners is a testimony to the fact," she said.

She said Pakistan has provided consular access to 44 Indian prisoners held in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore on February 15.

"The Indian authorities provided access to only six Pakistani prisoners even though we have been seeking access to about 160 Pakistani prisoners," she said.

About 238 Pakistani prisoners continued to languish in Indian prisons even after Pakistan completed all formalities for their release and repatriation, she said.

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K J M Varma in Islamabad
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