ISLAMABAD: Over 600 Indian prisoners are being held in Pakistan, while 355 Pakistanis are languishing in Indian jails, according to the lists exchanged by the two countries on Saturday.

“Today, the Government of Pakistan shared with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad a list of 628 Indian prisoners in Pakistan, including 51 civilians and 577 fishermen,” the FO said in a statement.

New Delhi, meanwhile, shared with Pakistan’s High Commission in India a list of 355 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, including 282 civilians and 73 fishermen.

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.

Prisoners mostly comprise fishermen on both sides

The prisoners included in the lists are fishermen and other civilians. The agreement doesn’t cover those held on charges of espionage or other military-related offences.

This step is consistent with clause (i) of the consular access agreement, under which both countries are required to exchange lists of prisoners in each other’s custody twice a year, on Jan 1, and July 1, respectively.

Maritime trespassing is common in India and Pakistan because of disputed maritime boundary and small fishermen lacking good navigational tools. 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.

On Jan 1, 2021, India had said that 263 Pakistani prisoners and 77 fishermen were in its custody. Meanwhile, as per Pakistani list of January 2021, 270 Indian fishermen and another 49 prisoners were in its jails.

Nuclear installations list

The two countries continuing a three-decade-old practice also shared with each other lists of their nuclear facilities and installations.

“In accordance with Article-II of the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between Pakistan and India, signed on 31 December 1988 and ratified on 27 January 1991, the 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, at 1030 hours (PST),” the FO said, adding: “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 at 1100 hours (IST).”

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, 2022

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