India allows Pakistan access to 208 prisoners
* 694 prisoners to be released on September 12
* No Indian PoWs in Pakistani jails, says interior secretary
By Shahzad Raza
ISLAMABAD: The Indian government has allowed Pakistan access to 208 Pakistani nationals being held in Indian jails for years without access to lawyers, Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told Daily Times on Thursday.
This development comes in the wake of an agreement between Pakistan and India to free 694 prisoners, whose national status had been confirmed by both counties, on September 12.
The interior secretary said Pakistani counsellors would meet the 208 prisoners in the coming month and collect personal information, such as their names and addresses in Pakistan, for the verification process. Lawyers would meet prisoners in Amritsar Jail on September 19, and those in Jaipur Jail on September 26, he said.
The Interior Ministry would send the prisoners’ particulars to the concerned districts for reconfirmation, which would take around 10 days, he said. Pakistani counsellors in India had no access to the remaining 208 prisoners in the past, he said. The prisoners to be released include 406 fishermen and 288 civilian prisoners. “Under the agreement, both countries will release all prisoners whose national status has been confirmed,” the interior secretary said.
The interior secretary said 553 Pakistani prisoners were in different Indian jails. Pakistan confirmed the national status of 224 prisoners, while that of 121 prisoners could not be verified. The secretary said 52 Pakistani fishermen were in Indian jails, the nationality of 38 of whom had been confirmed by the Pakistani government. On India’s claim of around 1,000 Indian nationals being held in Pakistani prisons, the secretary said Pakistan had 371 Indian fishermen and 151 civilians in different jails.
He said Pakistan did not have any India Prisoners of War (PoWs) in jail. “It doesn’t suit any country to keep PoWs for so many years,” he said. He said during his visit, he had met with two Pakistani prisoners who had never met any Pakistani official during their imprisonment.