MoS External Affairs replies to RS MP Parimal Nathwani
Ahmedabad, July 28: There are 266 fishermen and 42 civilian prisoners who are Indian or are believed to be Indian in Pakistan jails as of July 01, 2023. There are 343 civilian prisoners and 74 fishermen in Indian custody who are Pakistani or are believed to be Pakistani. A total of 2559 Indian fishermen have been repatriated from Pakistan since 2014, including 398 Indian fishermen, who were repatriated from Pakistan this year. This information was provided by Minister of State for Ministry of External Affairs V. Muraleedharan in Rajya Sabha on July 27, 2023 while replying to a question raised by Member of Parliament Parimal Nathwani.
According to the statement of the minister, as per the India-Pakistan ‘Agreement on Consular Access’ signed on 21 May 2008, lists of civilian prisoners and fishermen of each country, lodged in the jails of the other, are exchanged on 1 January and 1 July of every year.
Nathwani wanted to know the details of Indian prisoners, particularly Indian fishermen in jails of Pakistan, the details of Pakistani prisoners, particularly Pakistani fishermen in jails of India, and whether either of the Governments mulls any proposal for setting up a Common Judicial Mechanism consisting of the retired Supreme Court Judges of both the countries to deal with the cases of fishermen inadvertently crossing the marine borders; and whether such an arrangement, which would be beneficial to innocent fishermen of both the countries.
As per the statement, the ‘India-Pakistan Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners’ comprising retired judges from both sides was set up in 2008 by the Governments of India and Pakistan to recommend steps for the humane treatment of prisoners and fishermen and their expeditious release. The Committee, which is hosted by the two countries on an alternate basis, has had seven meetings so far, as per the statement.
According to the minister’s statement, the government attaches the highest priority to the welfare, safety, and security of Indian fishermen. As soon as cases of apprehension of Indian fishermen by Pakistan are reported, immediate steps are taken by the Indian Mission in Islamabad towards seeking Consular Access from the Pakistan Government, as per the statement.
The minister’s statement read that during Consular Access, officials from the High Commission of India visit the Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails to ascertain their well-being and distribute daily-use welfare items. All possible assistance, including legal assistance, is extended to the Indian fishermen. The matter of early release and repatriation of Indian fishermen is consistently raised with the Pakistan Government and it is conveyed that this issue may be considered purely on humanitarian and livelihood grounds, as per the statement.