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Pak asks India to activate body on prisoners

It accuses India of delaying the exchange of prisoners by not activating the agreed upon bilateral mechanism which was set up in March.

world Updated: Jul 01, 2007 17:39 IST

IANS
Hindustantimes
         

Pakistan has accused India of delaying the exchange of prisoners by not activating the bilateral mechanism agreed upon and set up in March this year.

This was communicated to New Delhi through diplomatic channels earlier this week along with a call for early convening of the committee's inaugural meeting.

It is likely to be discussed at the home secretary-level talks scheduled in New Delhi next week, Dawn newspaper said Sunday.

Quoting unnamed diplomatic sources, it said that the proposal underlines the need for drawing up the committee's terms of reference. It also suggests procedures for the committee to address the plight of prisoners by expediting consular access and determining national status.

During the foreign ministers meeting held in Islamabad in January, Pakistan and India had agreed to establish a committee on prisoners. It comprised four retired judges of the superior judiciary of each side, who would visit jails in the two countries.

The committee, formed at Pakistan's initiative, is meant to propose steps to the two governments to ensure humane treatment and expedite release as well as repatriate prisoners on both sides.

Despite repeated claims by Pakistan and India of attaching high priority to the issue of civilian prisoners and treating it on humanitarian grounds, they have failed to convene a meeting of the committee on prisoners, the newspaper said.

Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said that Pakistan had emphasised at every meeting that the committee ought to be made functional at the earliest "but India was not forthcoming."

"We have always favoured greater attention to the plight of prisoners. Unfortunately, we have not received the kind of cooperation we had expected from India on that issue," she observed.

A large number of unsuspecting people, mainly farmers and shepherds, stray across the international border.

This is also the case with fishermen, unaware of the boundaries, or getting swept by the tide. A mechanism has been put in place for their early repatriation after years of talks.

According to official Pakistani figures, there are over 450 Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails, many of whom have completed their sentences.

There have been constant complaints from both sides of prisoners being tortured or mistreated.

Several Pakistani prisoners who returned from India after the 2006 bilateral agreement had lost their mental balance, the newspaper said.

It did not give details of the number of Indian prisoners and their living conditions in Pakistani jails.

First Published: Jul 01, 2007 17:12 IST