Pakistan-India thaw: Biggest-ever prisoner swap on the cards

Published: August 20, 2012
Exchange will apply to all inmates besides those detained on terrorism, espionage charges. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Exchange will apply to all inmates besides those detained on terrorism, espionage charges. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


Pakistan and India are expected to carry out the biggest-ever swap of prisoners languishing in each other jails, indicating a growing thaw in their frosty relations four years after the Mumbai attacks.

Officials told The Express Tribune that a broader understanding to release prisoners was reached when President Asif Ali Zardari visited India this April and met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The swap will apply to all prisoners besides those detained on terrorism or espionage charges, according to sources in the foreign ministry. The foreign ministries of the two countries have been gathering data on prisoners detained in jails on both sides of the border.

While no exact figure is available, officials said the number of Pakistanis jailed in India run into hundreds if not thousands – and most of them are either fishermen or villagers living on the border who cross into India unknowingly.

On the other hand, an equal number of Indians face miserable conditions in Pakistani jails, and are often denied access to a lawyer or contact with their families.

Officials said the release of prisoners would be part of a series of ‘pleasant developments’ taking place between the two countries.

“When so many positive things are happening and there is an ambition on both sides to make these gains irreversible, we don’t think we should be shying from dealing with this humanitarian issue,” said an official at the foreign ministry.

On August 15, as many as 55 Indian prisoners were released on the orders of the president and officials said it was the ‘informal’ beginning of a plan.

There are expectations that the announcement to release prisoners might be made in November this year, when the Indian premier is likely to visit Pakistan.

The two countries have recently resumed a composite dialogue after three years, following multiple assaults in Mumbai in 2008 which were blamed on a group based in Pakistan.

Peace and trade

Meanwhile, an 18-member delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians and traders will leave for India on a four-day visit on August 22 for the promotion of peace, harmony and expedite the flow of trade among Saarc member countries.

Vice President Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry Iftikhar Ali Malik told APP that it was the need of the hour that Saarc members address their mutual disputes and exploit the economic potential of the region that is unfortunately mired in poverty. Members of the delegation include leader of the House in Senate Jehangir Badar, among others. (With additional input from APP)

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Indian Catholic
    Aug 20, 2012 - 1:43PM

    The thaw is only in your minds as Pakistan has not moved one inch on the Mumbai attacks.


  • sid
    Aug 20, 2012 - 2:58PM

    @Indian Catholic:
    leave it yaar………….we indians need to change this worthless govt…….Recommend

    Aug 20, 2012 - 3:32PM

    Anything positive should be welcome that improves the relations between India and Pakistan I strongly believe both the countries would live in peace and harmony some day.Only fools are fighting now-a-days.Science and technology has offered a great life for everyone who works hard for it.Then why fight and leave a legacy of hatred and misunderstanding for one another.


  • Neutral NRI
    Aug 20, 2012 - 4:28PM

    Why do I feel that there is something wrong from the Indian side as well….I keeping a neutral perspective feel that the 26/11 was a false flag operation from our side which failed drastically and bought some short term results like maligning Pakistan in international media!!


  • BlackJack
    Aug 20, 2012 - 5:21PM

    @Neutral NRI:
    Dude – you are far from neutral and even further from an NRI/ Indian. And btw, I welcome this move, Indian tax payers are forking out the money to pay for the upkeep of these Pakistanis who aren’t involved in any anti-state activities – the sooner we return them to their homeland, the better for all of us.


  • Salman
    Aug 20, 2012 - 5:28PM

    Did Govt means swapping Indian sponsored TTP terrorists ?


  • vasan
    Aug 20, 2012 - 6:08PM

    Neutral NRI: Before 26/11, Pakistan was the most pious land envied by the rest of the world.. May be even after OBL fiasco, it is still envied . Are u happy now ?


  • Aug 20, 2012 - 6:34PM

    “There are expectations that the announcement to release prisoners might be made in November this year, when the Indian premier is likely to visit Pakistan.”

    If it has been determined that these prisoners are no longer required to be imprisoned then why does the date of their release needs to coincide with Sing’s visit at the end of the year?

    The citizens of our two nations are nothing but merely pawns in the stupid games the politicians like to play.


  • gp65
    Aug 20, 2012 - 6:55PM

    @Neutral NRI:
    Forget neutral NRIs, even neutral Pakistanis do not thinl 26/11 was a false flag operation. It is quite okay for you to expess your opinion that you believe this – not sure why you need to lie about your identity though.


  • Aug 20, 2012 - 8:42PM

    then stop whining here


  • Lion heart
    Aug 20, 2012 - 10:11PM

    India holds each and every Pakistani citizen responsible for what happened on 26/11. We don’t care how many pakistani people died because of terror attacks and bombs, you brought that misery upon yourself because you have made your own society violent, fanatical and one where people cannot tell the right from the wrong.
    We shall never be friends with Pakistan, in fact we shall try our best to be your worst enemy. Growing Thaw!! he says, Keep dreaming.


  • antanu g
    Aug 20, 2012 - 11:18PM

    fully agreed with you….war mongers are destined to be sidelined one day.Recommend

  • antanu g
    Aug 20, 2012 - 11:23PM

    @Lion heart:
    lion heart…? you talk like rabbit. and lets see who wins….peace or hatred…i bet on peace….people like you would be sidelined soon.RSS mindset has lost its charm among new generation…Recommend

  • thomas a
    Aug 21, 2012 - 6:22PM

    In the cards not on the cards-on the table


  • Dr Vikas
    Aug 21, 2012 - 6:58PM

    @antanu g:
    Sahb , it is just because of people like u that , we Indians are attacked again n again. We need to take a stand and if we keep on hanging like u then we will land nowhere , so we need to take a stance like RSS, although their was actly no need to fight abt domestic politics on an international news forum.


  • G. Din
    Aug 21, 2012 - 8:31PM

    “Anything positive should be welcome that improves the relations between India and Pakistan”
    Those who settle for “anything” end up getting “nothing”! There can be no peace between India and Pakistan until and unless Pakistan grows up and decides to become a responsible citizen-state of the world. You cannot have peace just for yourself at the cost of peace all around. Chamberlain and Stalin tried it with Hitler. Nazi armies were already attacking their countries before they even reached their capitals!


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