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Musharraf's offer stirs hope

india Updated: Jan 15, 2007 02:20 IST
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Relatives of missing defence personnel, believed to be held as Prisoners of War (POWs) in Pakistan since 1971, have welcomed Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's offer asking them to visit Pakistan to look for their loved ones. But they want the matter to be treated as a humanitarian issue rather than a political one.

Speaking to the Hindustan Times, GS Gill, whose brother Wing Commander HS Gill was captured after his aircraft was shot down by Pakistani air defence guns while on an air raid inside Pakistan, said the relatives would like to take up Musharraf's offer.

However, Gill said the relatives would like to visit not only jails in Pakistan but also mental institutions where these prisoners might have been shifted in the course of their 35 years' imprisonment.

"We would also like to see the security prisoners being held in Pakistan, which would include those being held on charges of spying," he added.

Gill is one of the most active members of the Missing Defence Personnel Relatives' Association (MDPRA) and has been to Pakistan on a previous visit of a similar kind 23 years back, but one that did not yield any result.

He added that when Musharraf had come to Agra, he had categorically stated that there were no Indian soldiers being held in Pakistan. "He had made an offer then too, asking the relatives to come and visit Pakistan. We told him then that we would visit only if the process was transparent and honest," he said.

Simi Waraich, whose father Major SPS Waraich, is also believed to have been in Pakistani custody since 1971, also expressed happiness over the invitation extended by the Pakistan President. "We would like to take along not only the relatives but also people well-known in other walks of life so there is an objective assessment of the situation," she said.

Gill said Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon had informed the relatives that when he comes back from Pakistan, he will call them to discuss the modalities of visiting Pakistan.

"They are appointing retired judges on both sides, India and Pakistan, to form a joint committee and to investigate how many prisoners have completed sentences and are still staying in jails," said Gill.

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