Plight of Prisoners
December 23, 2009
THE plight of Pakistanis in Indian prisons is appalling. Many were picked up for no serious violation of the law — although overstaying or straying across the border inadvertently is a major crime in New Delhi’s legal lexicon. There are some prisoners — reportedly 32 in number — who have completed their jail terms but still remain behind bars. Cases of prisoners falling victim to torture have also come to light. What does one make of all this? Considering the fact that Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails suffer an identical fate, this is fast becoming a tit-for-tat game between New Delhi and Islamabad. This should not be the case, and the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi should be playing its due role in seeking to arrange the repatriation of prisoners who have served out their sentence as demanded by their relatives. It was recommended by the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, formed in 2007, that such prisoners should be repatriated without delay. There are said to be about 740 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails and 585 Indians in our prisons. While the two governments continue to be locked in a meaningless confrontation on issues not always of a crucial nature, they pay scant regard to the human cost of their deadlock.
The Indian and Pakistan prisoners are among the biggest sufferers of the stalemate in India-Pakistan ties. Their problems — and there are quite a few — which could have been sorted out on the sidelines of the composite dialogue have now been pushed into oblivion. Last year an agreement on consular access was signed. Under this accord the two countries are expected to exchange lists of each other’s prisoners that they hold. While Pakistan sent its list in July it is not known if India’s list has been received by Islamabad. At least positive trends should be allowed to continue.