Islamabad and New Delhi exchanged the lists of civilian prisoners and fishermen in each other's custody, on Friday.
The lists were exchanged under the provisions of the Agreement on Consular Access signed between the two countries in 2008. The agreement requires both India and Pakistan to exchange lists of prisoners in each other’s custody twice a year, on January 1 and July 1.
India handed over a list of 309 Pakistani civilian prisoners and 95 fishermen in Indian custody to Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan shared a list of 49 civilian prisoners and 633 fishermen in its custody, who are or are believed to be Indians.
According to diplomatic sources, Pakistan has demanded the Indian government to release Pakistani nationals who have completed their sentences as soon as possible.
India has also urged Pakistan to expedite necessary action at its end to confirm the nationality status of 57 Pakistani prisoners, including fishermen, whose repatriation is pending for want of nationality confirmation by Pakistan.
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Earlier in June, 20 Indian fishermen were released from Malir District Jail, Karachi, and were sent to Lahore by bus from where they were handed over to Indian authorities through Wagah border.
Their travel expenses were borne by the Edhi Foundation; they were also given clothes, ration, essentials and cash as gifts as well. They had been arrested for violating maritime boundaries and were released after completion of their sentences.
Pakistani nationals, including fishermen who were languishing in Indian jails, were also repatriated via the Attari-Wagah border after completing their sentences in February this year as well.
It may be noted that the two nuclear-armed neighbors often arrest each other’s nationals on different charges, including spying.
Strained relations between the two neighbors keep prisoners in jail for longer periods, and in some cases, even after they serve their sentences. So much so, that many of them have been either killed or died during custody.
Fishermen from both sides have long been paying a heavy price for fraught relations between the two neighbors. Both countries often arrest fishermen for violating each other’s seawaters due to poorly marked water boundaries and ill-equipped boats that lack the technology to specify exact locations.
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