KARACHI: Litigation over the fate of 189 Pakistani prisoners reportedly languishing in Indian penitentiaries took a new turn on Tuesday when a human rights activist submitted in the Sindh High Court a list of 17 prisoners waiting for their repatriation, some of them well over 10 years.
Earlier, during the previous hearing, the foreign ministry had disputed the claims of the chairman of Ansar Barney Trust International regarding 189 Pakistani prisoners having gone missing from Indian jails.
The petitioner placed on record a letter of the foreign ministry to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi containing the list of 17 Pakistani prisoners with the dates of confirmation of their national status by the interior ministry.
According to the letter, Pakistan’s mission at New Delhi was requested to take up the matter with the Indian government for an early release of the Pakistani prisoners as well as all those who had completed their sentences.
The Sindh High Court has asked the federal government to explain its position on 189 Pakistanis ‘missing in India’
The list showed that the national status of prisoners Nasir Mahmood son of Sakhi Muhammad, Muhammad Rafiq son of Muhammad Nawaz Sial and Nazir Ahmed son of Haji Lal Khan was confirmed by the interior ministry in 2005, while the national status of prisoners Muhammad Yousuf Khawaja son of Muhammad Ayub, Muhammad Usama son of Muhammad Shafi Attar, Abdul Malik son of Muhammad Ajmal and Muhammad Saeed Sabir son of Hafiz Abdul Majid was confirmed in 2006.
Besides, the list said the national status of prisoners Waseem Noor son of Noor Muhammad, Muhammad Abdullah son of Muhammad Zareen, Muhammad Zafar Iqbal son of Muhammad Yousuf, Ghulam Farid son of Muhammad Shafi, Abdul Majid son of Muhammad Qasim, Tasneem Azeem son of Raeed Azeem, Sikandar-e-Azam Sani, Khalid Mehmood son of Muhammad Ayub and Abdul Matin son of Haji Muhammad Yaqub was confirmed by the interior ministry in 2010.
The foreign ministry letter to the Pakistan mission in New Delhi said these Pakistani prisoners had reportedly completed their sentences.
On Tuesday, a bench headed by Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah directed the ministry of foreign affairs to submit its comments on the list by April 26, the next date of hearing.
The rights activist in his petition had stated that he was shocked to see the Pakistan government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s silence and ignorance on painful reports relating to 189 Pakistani prisoners having gone missing from Indian prisons, so he decided to file this constitutional petition in the high court.
The foreign ministry had in its reply denied the claims of the petitioner and stated that whenever an arrest was brought to the ministry’s notice, a request to the Indian authorities was made for consular access to collect information about the detainee and establish his or her Pakistani citizenship.
The reply stated that the antecedents, thus collected, were then examined by the interior ministry for confirmation of the national status.
“Once the national status of a prisoner is confirmed, a formal request is made to the Indian side for early repatriation of the detainee concerned”, it added.
The report, however, further said that such a request was not entertained till the Indian authorities initiate legal proceedings against the detainees.
It said that Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi provided legal assistance to undertrial detainees.
Besides, the foreign ministry said, the Pakistani mission in New Delhi approached the Indian ministry of external affairs for expeditious repatriation of those prisoners who have either been acquitted or have completed their respective jail terms.
It requested the court to dismiss the petition in view of its submissions.
The interior ministry in its reply stated that the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi exchanged lists of Pakistani prisoners with the Indian ministry of external affairs.
The reply said that a list of 271 Pakistani prisoners, including 17 fishermen, was handed over to the Pakistan mission by the Indian external affairs ministry, while the Pakistan mission presented a list of 460 Pakistani prisoners, including 113 fishermen, to the Indian authorities.
As for 189 Pakistani prisoners claimed to have been mysteriously missing from Indian jails, the interior ministry said that neither such information was available in its record nor did it receive any complaint/request from the aggrieved families of such missing persons.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2016