Pakistani nationals convicted of militancy and other national security offences will be held back in Indian prisons even after completing their terms, officials say.
India has decided to suspend consular access or deportation of such prisoners after the security establishment cited the apparent lack of reciprocal access to Indian prisoners in Pakistani prisons, three different officials told the HT on condition of anonymity.
That is a U-turn from the time until last year when Indian officials complained that several countries, including Pakistan, were not accepting “militants without a nation” – those who had completed their sentences but were not being accepted by their countries.
The policy will also fly in the face of recent Supreme Court rulings pushing for the repatriation of such prisoners languishing in India. On Friday, the government told the SC that the India-Pakistan protocol on prisoners was not working. The court gave the government two months to come up with a policy.
“The India-Pakistan protocol lays down consular access for civil prisoners, but not security prisoners,” an Indian official said. “Pakistan does not give access to Indian security prisoners. We want to insist on reciprocity.” The court has asked that undertrials who had served time equal to their maximum possible punishment be sent back. Pakistani prisoners in India are listed under two categories, “security” and “civil”. The “civil” prisoners are convicted for border crossing or petty crimes. “Security” prisoners are those charged with anti-India activities.
“The government of India has decided that hardened terrorists will especially not be sent back,” another security official said. “They are recycled.” Bhim Singh, head of the J&K Legal Aid Committee who brought the plea to the SC, says the classification of “security prisoners” is unconstitutional.
Officials in Jammu and Kashmir said last year that dozens of people convicted of militancy were not being accepted by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Tajikistan. Philippe Stoll, New Delhi-based spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told the HT that the ICRC – which is given access to J&K prisons under a 1995 agreement – had not been approached by either side over the deportation issue.