535 Indian prisoners in three Pakistani jails

A report of an India-Pakistan judicial panel that visited three jails in Pakistan, including Kot Lakhpat in Lahore where Sarabjit Singh was lodged, said Friday that 535 Indian prisoners, including 483 fishermen, “were presented before the committee”. There are 273 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, the panel said.

The panel, comprising retired judges A.S Gill and M.A Khan from the Indian side, and Abdul Qadir Chaudhry, Nasir Aslam Zahid and Mian Muhammad Ajmal from the Pakistani side, visited the Malir (Karachi), Adiyala (Rawalpindi) and Kot Lakhpat (Lahore) jails April 26-May 1, 2013, an external affairs ministry statement said.

“A total number of 535 Indian prisoners, including 483 fishermen (including 11 juveniles) and eight civil prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at District Jail Malir, Karachi, eight prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at Adiyala Jail, Rawalpindi and 36 prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore were presented before the Committee,” the report says.

It says that as per the Agreement on Consular Access of May 21, 2008, both sides exchanged a list of prisoners Jan 1, 2013. The Committee also “appreciated the release of 684 Indian fishermen and 30 Indian civil prisoners by Pakistani authorities and 96 Pakistani fisherman and 59 Pakistani civil prisoners by Indian authorities since January 2012 till date”.

It said in the Malir jail,  there were 29 Indian prisoners who had completed their sentence more than a month ago and recommended that they be released and repatriated before May 17, 2013.

It also said that consular access must be provided immediately to all those prisoners who have not been given this so far, and the process of confirming their nationality  should begin immediately after consular access is provided.

The panel found “there were 459 fishermen and 10 civil prisoners in the three jails for whom consular access was not provided. The Committee recommended providing consular access to all such prisoners and fishermen before May 17, and the Pakistani side agreed for the same”.

It also recommended that the seriously ill and mentally challenged and deaf/mute prisoners must be kept in appropriate hospitals/special institutions. It found one prisoner in Malir jail, two in Adiyala Jail, and 20 prisoners in Kot Lakhpat Jail to be “mentally challenged”.

It said copies of the FIR, medical report and photograph at the time of detention should be shared with the Indian High Commission and that “efforts should also be made to rule out that these prisoners are not Pakistani nationals”.

It said that the names of several prisoners “had been dropped from the successive lists of prisoners, believed to be Indian, which were shared by Pakistan side twice every year”. It recommended that Pakistan “provide a formal verification to Indian side and vice versa if any names were left out from the previous list of prisoners, so that each side could follow up on each case and discrepancy in list maintained by each side reduced”.

It recommended a mechanism for “compassionate and humanitarian consideration” for women, juvenile, mentally challenged, elderly and all those suffering from serious illness.

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