Don’t play politics with lives, urges Asma
Making a strong plea for prisoners on both sides, Jahangir said they must be provided with consular access and there should be an exchange of prisoners “as soon as possible”, reports Saroj Nagi.delhi Updated: Mar 21, 2008 01:32 IST
Human rights activist from Pakistan Asma Jahangir has appealed for a reprieve for Sarabjit Singh whose hanging has been postponed till April 30 and urged New Delhi and Islamabad not to play politics with the lives of prisoners.
“Every life saved will make the country concerned bigger,’’ Jahangir said at a news conference after wrapping up her 18-day visit to India as the United Nation’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief.
Making a strong plea for prisoners on both sides of the border, Jahangir said they must be provided with consular access and due process and there should be an exchange of prisoners “as soon as possible”.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee made a similar point in the Rajya Sabha when, in a reply to a question, he said that a new consular agreement is being finalised with Pakistan to replace the existing one to ensure expeditious release of and consular access to prisoners. He said a judicial committee comprising superior judges from both countries has been set up to address such issues.
Mukherjee said 372 fishermen and about 199 prisoners are in jail in Pakistan, many of whom have not been granted consular access despite prolonged periods in custody. As for Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails for minor offences, he said that on occasion there has been delay in their repatriation as the Pakistan government did not provide travel documents in time.
Jahangir noted religious intolerance has increased in India over the past 10 years and there is a risk that communal violence of the kind seen in 1992 might recur.
“It is a challenge, both for the government and for non-state actors, to diffuse tensions and address the root causes ahead of time,’’ she said.
She attributed the growth of intolerance to vote bank politics and the communalisation of parties. And development without inclusiveness, she pointed out, will only aggravate resentment.