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Pak awaits India's reaction on prisoners

Islamabad has sent a proposal to set up a committee to expedite the release of prisoners, reports Srinand Jha.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2007 23:26 IST

Islamabad is awaiting New Delhi’s word on its proposal to set up a joint committee to expedite release of individuals held prisoners in the two countries for having overstayed their visa permits. Pakistan Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Tariq Azim said this on Wednesday.

Most Pakistani prisoners have been arrested on petty infringements, but have been subjected to heavy punishment and torture in Indian jails and a big percentage of freed prisoners have lost their mental balance, Azim told a press conference at New Delhi.

Elaborating, he said that one released prisoner is unable to recognise his mother after his return to Pakistan, while another remains in a state of severe trauma and jumps up each time someone enters his hospital room.

Close to 500 Pakistani prisoners are languishing in Indian jails and it should be in the fitness things to set up a committee comprising senior retired judges to visit jails in the respective countries to help resolve this humanitarian issue, he said.

At another level, the scenario is upbeat as bilateral trade - placed at $161 in 2002 - now had the potential of reaching $ 10 billion by 2010. Visa applications were multiplying exponentially, with the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi having issued more than 100,000 visas last year itself.

The India Government, meantime, released 13 Pakistani prisoners lately. These are tangible results of the peace process, said Azim, while adding that in view of changed circumstances, the two governments must hastily address the issue of inadequate staff at their consulates.

He said that encouraging bigger interaction between film industries of the two countries was a splendid idea, but that film producers in Pakistan felt threatened and apprehensive because of the financial power of Bollywood.

“A full Pakistani film can be made with the amount that is paid to an ‘extra’ in India, Azim said jokingly.

On the other hand, he said, Indian distributors have remained un-interested in showing Pakistani films in India. He also found it unusual that during his three-day stay. He had not noticed any Pakistani channels being telecast by Indian cable operators. In contrast, almost 50% of Indian channels are visible in Pakistan, he pointed out.

Referring to the Baglihar issue, as a 'win-win situation', Azim said that the World Bank verdict had vindicated Pakistan’s position. Interestingly, reports from Islamabad suggest that Pakistan is considering the option of going for court of arbitration over the judgement to approve the spillway gates of the dam.

Islamabad claims that these gates will help India regulate the flow of Chenab waters.

On Siachen, the minister said he hoped the peace process would eventually lead to demilitarisation of world's highest war field. About 2 millions dollars are being spent by each side everyday and these funds can be diverted to make more dispensaries and schools for the people, he said.

Primarily in India to attend the Rotary South Asia Goodwill Summit on Monday, Azim held ‘fruitful discussions’ with cross sections of individuals including political leaders and members of parliament during his three-day stay at New Delhi.

First Published: Feb 14, 2007 23:26 IST