Pak refuses India access to mentally-challenged inmates

Pak refuses India access to mentally-challenged inmates

Islamabad had in early 2018 conveyed to New Delhi that it had in jails across Pakistan altogether 27 prisoners, who are psychologically challenged and believed to be citizens of India. PTI file photo

Several psychologically challenged Indian now stare at a bleak future as they languish in the jails in Pakistan, while the government of the neighbouring country went back on its own words to allow New Delhi send a team of doctors to meet them.

New Delhi is keen to send a team of psychiatrists to visit the jails in Pakistan and meet some people, who are mentally unstable and believed to be citizens of India. Islamabad had on March 7, 2018, agreed to allow the team of psychiatrists from India to visit Pakistan. Though more than 20 months passed since then, Islamabad so far did not grant visas to the psychiatrists – notwithstanding several reminders by New Delhi.

Pakistan's dilly-dallying on granting visas for psychiatrists irked India.

New Delhi on Wednesday asked Islamabad “to expedite grant of visas to the members of the team of medical experts, proposed to visit Pakistan to assess the mental condition of believed-to-be Indian prisoners of unsound mind, lodged in different jails of Pakistan”.

Islamabad had in early 2018 conveyed to New Delhi that it had in jails across Pakistan altogether 27 prisoners, who are psychologically challenged and believed to be citizens of India

New Delhi proposed to send a team of psychiatrists and other medical experts to “assess the mental health of the prisoners” and start the process of verifying their nationality and subsequent repatriation to India.

The applications seeking visas for the psychiatrists were sent to the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi long back. But the Pakistan government has not yet issued the travel documents and uncertainty now looms large, not only over the proposed visit of the psychiatrists but also on the fate of the psychologically challenged prisoners, who are believed to be citizens of India but languishing in the jails of the neighbouring country, sources told DH in New Delhi.

New Delhi on Wednesday handed over to Islamabad a list of 347 Pakistani citizens incarcerated in the jails in India. The list included 98 Pakistani fishermen, who were caught by Indian Coast Guard after they crossed the maritime boundary while fishing in the Arabian Sea. “India has also urged Pakistan to expedite necessary action at its end to confirm the nationality status of 82 Pakistan prisoners, including fishermen, whose repatriation is pending for want of nationality confirmation by Pakistan,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said.

Islamabad too shared with New Delhi a list of 537 Indian or “believed-to-be Indian” citizens now held in the jails in Pakistan. The list included 483 Indian fishermen, who had been arrested after inadvertently entering into the waters of Pakistan.

The two sides exchanged the lists of each other's citizens held in each other's prisons on Wednesday, in keeping with a 2008 bilateral agreement. The agreement provides for exchange of such lists twice a year, on January 1 and July 1.

New Delhi called for early release and repatriation of Indian civilian prisoners, missing Indian defence personnel and fishermen along with their boats from Pakistan’s custody. “In this context, Pakistan was asked to expedite the release and repatriation of four Indian civilian prisoners and 126 Indian fishermen to India whose nationality has been confirmed and conveyed to Pakistan,” said Kumar. “In addition, Pakistan has been asked to provide immediate consular access to 14 believed-to-be Indian civilian prisoners and 100 Indian fishermen who are in Pakistan’s custody.”

India and Pakistan on Wednesday also exchanged the lists of nuclear installations and facilities covered under the bilateral Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations.

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