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KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday gave three-week time to federal authorities to file their comments on a petition seeking repatriation of 17 Pakistani prisoners reportedly languishing in Indian penitentiaries, some of them for well over 10 years.

The bench was hearing the petition of Ansar Burney Trust International, a non-governmental organisation for the return of Pakistani prisoners to the country from India.

During a previous hearing in 2016, chairman of the ABTI Ansar Burney had 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 in 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 list showed that the national status of prisoners Nasir Mahmood son of Sakhi Mohammad, Mohammad Rafiq son of Mohammad Nawaz Sial and Nazir Ahmed son of Haji Lal Khan was confirmed by the interior ministry in 2005, while the national status of prisoners Mohammad Yousuf Khawaja son of Mohammad Ayub, Mohammad Usama son of Mohammad Shafi Attar, Abdul Malik son of Mohammad Ajmal and Mohammad 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 Mohammad, Mohammad Abdullah son of Mohammad Zareen, Mohammad Zafar Iqbal son of Mohammad Yousuf, Ghulam Farid son of Mohammad Shafi, Abdul Majid son of Mohammad Qasim, Tasneem Azeem son of Raeed Azeem, Sikandar-i-Azam Sani, Khalid Mehmood son of Mohammad Ayub and Abdul Matin son of Haji Mohammad 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.

The rights activist in his petition had stated that he was shocked to see the Pakistan government’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.

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.

The petitioner prayed to the court to direct the federal government to take measures for Pakistanis prisoners’ repatriation from India at the earliest.

The bench once against issued notice to the interior and foreign ministries, directing them to furnish their replies within three weeks and put off the hearing to a date to be later pronounced by the court’s office.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2018