ISLAMABAD: The federal government has informed the Supreme Court that at least 327 Pakistani civilians are languishing in Indian jails whereas 418 Indian civilians have been detained in different prisons of Pakistan.

Of the 327 Pakistanis in Indian prisons, 108 are fishermen. Of the 418 Indians in Pakistani jails, 365 are fishermen.

In a report furnished before the apex court, the Foreign Office explained that the information related to the number of Pakistani civilians confined in Indian jails until July 1 have been provided by Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi.

In a separate case, CJP takes suo motu notice of the use of name ‘Bahria’ by private developer for real estate business

A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice oF Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar will take up a joint petition moved by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) highlighting the ordeal of Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails.

Senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui will represent the petitioners whereas Additional Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti will appear on behalf of the federal government.

Both PFF and Piler are struggling to safeguard the rights and interests of the fishing communities of Pakistan by lobbying for a ban on deep-sea trawling, use of destructive nets, release of fishermen detained in Indian and Pakistani jails, abolition of contract labour system, etc.

According to the report, whenever an arrest of fisherman is brought to notice of Pakistan authorities, they immediately request the ministry of external affairs in India for consular access to collect information for establishing the Pakistani citizenship of the detained fisherman.

The antecedents so collected are then sent to the interior ministry for the confirmation of the national status. Once the national status of the detained fisherman is confirmed, the government makes a formal request to the Indian side for early repatriation of the detained civilian. And when the prisoner is released, Pakistan’s mission completes documentation to ensure his early repatriation to his country.

The report explained that the Pakistan-India Judicial Committee on Prisoners, comprising four eminent retired judges from each side, was established in January 2007.

The mandate of the committee, the report said, included visits to prisoners in each other’s jails and recommend measures for their expeditious release.

But due to escalation of tension between India and Pakistan and the unilateral suspension of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue by New Delhi, the committee has not met since its visit to India in October 2013.

During its last meeting, the committee had asked the bar council in India to take notice of the fact that Indian lawyers avoid taking the cases of Pakistani nationals.

The committee had also recommended that the courts in both countries may conduct expeditious trial of all under-trial prisoners. Besides, it highlighted that the authorities of both countries will have to provide legal assistance to such prisoners by appointing lawyers of good repute.

Meanwhile, the chief justice took a suo motu notice of the use of name ‘Bahria’ by the private developer Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd for the real estate business.

The chief justice also issued a notice to Bahria Town chairman Malik Riaz and fixed the case for hearing on Aug 2.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2018

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