KARACHI: A total of 426 Indian fishermen are in Malir Jail, Karachi, out of which 70 have already served their terms and 27 are still facing trial.
This was shared at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday, organised by the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners. Justice (retired) Nasir Aslam Zahid, social worker Iqbal Haider and a representative for Indian fishermen Mr Desai, were present.
They told the media that a total of 46 Pakistan prisoners were languishing in Central Jail Tihar, New Delhi, 98 in Central Jail Jaipur and 45 in Central Jail Amritsar. These figures were confirmed during the committee’s visit to India in January 2012.
Zahid said that the real issue was to confirm the identity of the prisoners as both the Indian and Pakistani governments were taking too much time to verify them.
He said that if a major politician was caught up in some issue, the entire system worked efficiently, but then this should happen for all people regardless of their status. He suggested that the prisoners should serve their jail in their own countries.
Haider said that two constitutional petitions needed to be filed to resolve the issue. One petition would push the Pakistani government to verify Pakistani prisoners in India and it would stress the resolution of the issue through diplomatic channels while the other petition would ensure that the prisoners languishing in Malir Jail – who have served their sentences – must be released immediately.
He stressed that their boats must also be released as their livelihoods depended on them. Haider suggested that the sea borders must also be opened as this would improve bilateral relations.
The men demanded that the “Consular Access Agreement” which was signed in May 2008 must be implemented fully. Access must be provided within three months of arrest and repatriation must take place within one month of confirmation of national status and completion of a sentence.
They added that there should be a mechanism that ensures compassionate treatment and humanitarian consideration is given to prisoners who are women, juvenile, mentally challenged, elderly or suffering from serious illness or permanent disability. They said that mentally challenged prisoners must also be kept in hospital instead of behind bars.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2012.