'18 Pakistani PoWs still awaiting release after 39 years'

"These included sepoy Muhammad Shafiq of village Kurla near Dina in northern Pakistan, who was 18 when he was made PoW while serving in Deenajpur village of east Pakistan, now Bangladesh," Dunya TV reported.

"Another six soldiers belonging to Shafiq’s village also went missing after the war and are believed to be in Indian prisons,” the report said.

“Shafiq’s family has not been able to see him in these 39 years. His father Raj Wali and mother Fatima Bibi have died in the meanwhile,” the report said, adding that “they (relatives) wrote letters to the Indian authorities to find out if he was alive in a prison there”.

“We wrote to the president, prime minister, chief justice, army chief and foreign office but nobody responded,” said Shafiq’s cousin Muhammad Latif.

“We also wrote to human rights activist Ansar Burney, who was instrumental in getting Sarabjit Singh released from Pakistani prison in 2008, but to no avail,” he said.

Sarabjit Singh, however, has not been released and continues to languish in a Pakistani jail, facing death sentence. His lawyer has said he would file a fresh mercy petition to the Pakistani president.

“The foreign office has recently admitted that 18 PoWs are still languishing in Indian jails, but no headway has been made for their release yet,” the report said.

Former federal minister Maj. (retd.) Raja Nadir Pervez, who himself was a PoW, said, “There is no excuse for Pakistani foreign office for not getting the remaining prisoners back to Pakistan”.

The Pakistan Army fought the war with India in the then East Pakistan before finally surrendering Dec 16, 1971. East Pakistan was declared an independent country after the war and was named as Bangladesh.

After the Simla Agreement between then Pakistani premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi in July 1972, more than 90,000 Pakistani PoWs were released from Indian jails and repatriated to Pakistan.

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