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ISLAMABAD: There are 537 Indian prisoners in Pak­i­stani jails, whereas 347 Pak­is­­tanis are languishing in Ind­ian prisons, according to the lists exchanged by the two countries on New Year’s day.

“The government of Pakistan today handed over a list of 537 Indian prisoners (54 civilians + 483 fishermen) in Pakistan to the High Com­mission of India in Islam­ab­­ad,” the Foreign Office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, according to a diplomatic source, India has intimated the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi that there are 347 Pakistanis, including 249 civilians and 98 fishermen, in its jails.

The two countries excha­n­­ge the lists of each other’s pri­­soners in their custody twice a year under their bila­teral Consular Access Agree­­ment signed on May 21, 2008.

The lists are exchanged on Jan 1 and July 1 every year. The lists include civilians and fishermen.

The agreement doesn’t cover those held on charges of espionage or other military-related offences.

Therefore, arrest of fishermen found violating the maritime boundary is common, but their release is a complicated process due to hostile relations between the two countries.

It may take a year or more for arrested fishermen to be released, but in most cases they lose their fishing boats, which are usually kept by the authorities that arrest them.

The two countries also shared lists of their nuclear facilities and installations with each other.

“In accordance with Arti­cle-II of the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks agai­nst Nuclear Instal­lations and Facilities between Pakistan and India, signed on Dec 31, 1988, a list of nuclear installations and facilities in Pakistan was officially handed over to a representative of the Indian High Commission at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today,” the FO said, adding that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi handed over the list of Indian nuclear installations and facilities to a representative of the Pakistan High Commission.

The agreement contains the provision that both countries inform each other of their nuclear installations and facilities on Jan 1 every year. This has been done consecutively since Jan 1, 1992.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019