Pakistan, India to exchange elderly, women prisoners

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Wednesday accepted India’s humanitarian proposal to release elderly and women prisoners.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, after consulting with all the stakeholders, has approved the Indian “humanitarian proposals”, said a foreign ministry statement.

The Indian proposals, the statement said, had been received “regarding the civilian prisoners incarcerated in both the countries.”

It said: “[Pakistan had agreed to] exchange of three categories of prisoners, women, mentally challenged or with special needs and those above 70 years of age and revival of the Judicial Committee mechanism.”

It added: “[Pakistan approved] facilitating the visit of medical experts [from both sides] to meet and examine the mentally-challenged prisoners for their repatriation.”

“Additionally, the foreign minister has also extended two more humanitarian proposals: Exchange of prisoners above 60 years of age and exchange of child prisoners, below 18 years of age.”

The foreign minister expressed the hope that India would positively reciprocate Pakistan’s proposals, in the spirit that they had been made.

He also said it was his desire that through such initiatives, Pakistan and India would embark on the road to a comprehensive dialogue, and make a conscious effort to de-escalate the current environment and the situation on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary.

In January, the transfer of lists of prisoners took place between Pakistan and India.

Under an agreement both Pakistan and India have to exchange the lists of prisoners of each country detained on the other side twice a year.

The lists are exchanged on January 1 and July 1 each year.

Pakistan handed over a list of 457 Indian prisoners to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and India reciprocated by giving a list of Pakistani prisoners to the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.

Out of 457 Indian prisoners held by Pakistani authorities there are 399 fishermen.

Pakistan released 146 Indian fishermen on January 8.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar said Pakistanis were most vulnerable to get caught in the web of criminal justice system in the Middle East but there was no structured plan to assist those hapless Pakistanis.

Speaking at the launch of a report “Caught in the Web: Treatment of Pakistanis caught in the criminal justice system of Saudi Arabia” by the Justice Project of Pakistan here, he said a state-like Pakistan, which itself had “no respect for a citizen’s life” and whose “own record of broken criminal justice system was pathetic” could not be expected to stand for the life and liberty of its citizens caught on the wrong side of the law in Saudi Arabia or anywhere.

About the criminal justice system in Saudi Arabia, Babar recounted the incident of a Pakistani Abdul Ghafoor who landed at Madinah airport on August 18, 2016, and disappeared the next day and remains untraced till date.

He said that the foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate proposed that investigations in the missing Pakistani’s case be started from the point when Haji Ghafoor had an altercation with a police official at the gate of Masjid-e-Nabvi and was whisked away and since then was not seen.

“The deafening silence of the Saudi authorities show how Pakistanis caught in the web of Saudi criminal justice system may even disappear without a trace,” Babar said.

He then asked the chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights to take the case forward from the point the Senate committee left it because of the end of its term.

The senator proposed the setting up of a special cell in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with issues related to Pakistanis in jails in foreign countries.

He proposed bilateral agreement so that prisoners could be transferred to serve their term in prisons of their home country and also for the transportation of bodies of executed prisoners.

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