India expresses concern over pending release, repatriation of prisoners in Pak custody

New Delhi: India has raised concerns over the long-pending release and repatriation of its prisoners who have been held under Pakistan custody despite completion of their sentence and confirmation of their nationalities.

The Ministry of External Affairs has conveyed the concerns to the Pakistani side regarding the prisoners who have not yet been released and continue languishing in jails in the neighbouring country.

“The esteemed High Commission is requested to make immediate necessary arrangements for the immediate release and repatriation of 10 Indian civilian prisoners lodged in Pakistan jails who have already completed their sentence and whose nationality has been confirmed and conveyed to the Government of Pakistan,” read a statement issued by the MEA on Tuesday.

The Ministry stated that India has raised its concern with Pakistan over missing Indian defence personnel, including Prisoners of War, believed to be in Pakistan’s custody.

“The Government of India has been consistently raising with Pakistan its concern regarding missing Indian defence personnel, including Prisoners of War, believed to be in Pakistan’s custody. List of the missing Indian defence personnel is once again enclosed at Annexure B. However, no response has been received from the Government of Pakistan in this regard. It is requested that necessary steps may be taken immediately to locate, release and repatriate the missing Indian defence personnel believed to be held in Pakistan custody,” the statement noted.

Requesting Islamabad for urgent and concrete steps be taken to repatriate the imprisoned fishermen to India at the earliest, India MEA said: “Further, there are 385 Indian fishermen, whose nationality has been confirmed and conveyed to the Government of Pakistan and who have been languishing in Pakistan jails despite completing their sentences.”

The MEA also shared its serious concern and filed a protest over the delayed information of the death of Indian fisherman Bhikha.

The Ministry further accused Pakistan of inordinate delay in information on prisoners, who died in custody. “Our Mission in Islamabad had been repeatedly taking up the matter of poor health condition of Bhikha. The Government of Pakistan has not intimated the circumstances and causes leading to the death of Bhikha including details of medical facilities provided to him.”

“This is not the first such case. The death of Indian fishermen late, Deva Bhai and late Nanu Bhai, was informed after inordinate delay. The Government of Pakistan is urged to ensure the safety, security and medical well-being of all Indian fishermen/prisoners as their physical safety and security is the responsibility of the Government of Pakistan. Arrangements may be made for expeditious repatriation of mortal remains of deceased Bhikha,” the statement added.

India further stated that consular access to Indian fishermen and prisoners in Pakistan jails is inordinately delayed, even though the Indian government has been providing consular access in a timely manner to High Commission officials to their prisoners in India.

“Such delays cause avoidable delay in confirmation of their nationality and thus detrimental to timely release of prisoners and fishermen. In this context, it is again informed that consular access for 5 civilian prisoners is still pending at Pakistan’s end,” the statement read.

The Ministry of External Affairs also referred to its Notes Verbale No. 2/01/2019 dated 1 January 2019, 148/01/2018 dated 11 December 2018 and 122/01/2018 dated 13 November 2018 and urged the High Commission to expedite the grant of visas to the members of the medical experts team, proposed to visit Pakistan to assess the mental condition of believed-to-be-Indian prisoners of unsound mind lodged in different jails of Pakistan; organise early visit of the Joint Judicial Committee to Pakistan; and organise early the visit of the 4–member team to Karachi in connection with release and repatriation of 22 Indian fishing boats.