NEW DEHLI: Indian Congress President Sonia Gandhi conveyed her gratitude to Pakistan’s civil society delegation who had worked for the release of Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails.
Pakistani civil society delegation members, who met Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Thursday, sought the early release of their compatriots prisoners who had completed their sentence in Indian jails.
Accompanied by Hind-Pak Dosti Manch members Kuldip Nayar & Mahesh Bhatt, they apprised Sonia of efforts in getting the Indian fishermen freed. Pakistan released 442 Indian fishermen last week.
The delegation also met Home Minister P Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to seek release of Pakistani prisoners. ‘‘The home minister said any Pakistani prisoner who has completed his sentence will be released immediately,’’ Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid told reporters. He said the Congress president was also ‘‘very receptive’’ to the demand.
Zahid, who is a member of the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, said that the release of Indian prisoners followed a petition in the Pakistan Supreme Court. ‘‘This is biggest batch of prisoners to be released in one go between the two countries,’’ he stated. He added there were 140 Indian fishermen left in Pakistan jails and efforts are being made to secure their release in the next three-four months.
Zahid said that the delegation had urged Indian authorities to release 43 Pakistani fishermen and 28 other civilian prisoners who had completed their sentence and whose travel papers were ready.
Bhatt said he told the Congress president that Pakistani civil activists had created a miracle in a murky atmosphere by getting 442 Indian fishermen released. He said Pakistani prisoners, who hailed from areas ravaged by floods, should be released so that they could spend Eid with their families.
Former Law Minister Iqbal Haider, who was an advocate in the Supreme Court in the petition seeking the release of the Indian prisoners, said it marked a new chapter in the history of the two countries. He said there were 128 Indian fishermen facing trial and efforts are being made to secure their release as well.
“Sonia Gandhi’s gratitude mattered a lot to us and made us proud,” he said.
Haider hoped that the Indian authorities will order the release of Pakistani prisoners who had completed their sentence. He added that there are about 900 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, out of which 772 were those against whom neither cases have proceeded nor charges disclosed.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2010.
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