The chill in ties between India and Pakistan is proving to be a hindrance in the functioning of a joint panel that deals with prisoners lodged in each other’s jails, possibly delaying the release of many who have completed their sentence.
So much so that the last time the panel, comprising retired judges from both countries, made a visit to prisons was three years back when it came to India. Indian government officials say they have since been waiting for Pakistan to allow the panel to travel there.
“We have been taking up this issue with Pakistan and we are awaiting a response,” an official said.
The committee was constituted in 2008 to look into “humanitarian aspects of the matter and recommend measures to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of fishermen and prisoners, who have completed their prison term.”
There are 516 fishermen and 57 civil prisoners, who are Indians or believed to be Indian nationals, currently in the custody of Pakistani authorities. A formal confirmation of the presence of 55 fishermen and 3 civil prisoners is yet to be received from the government of Pakistan.
Three Indian prisoners, including two fishermen and a civilian prisoner, died in Pakistani jails in 2016.
There are 270 Pakistani civil prisoners and 37 fishermen in Indian jails.
The release of fishermen and prisoners is also a political gesture in the India-Pakistan ties. In 2016, India released 10 Pakistani civil prisoners and 9 fishermen and Pakistan released 190 Indian fishermen and 2 Indian civil prisoners.