India and Pakistan on Sunday exchanged lists of prisoners lodged in each other’s jails.
This was done in accordance with a 2008 Consular Access Agreement under which such lists are exchanged on January 1 and July 1 every year.
While India handed over to Pakistan lists of 249 civilian prisoners and 108 fishermen, Pakistan shared lists of 53 civilian prisoners and 418 fishermen in its custody, who are Indians or believed to be Indians, according to a statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry here.
“Government has emphasised on the need for early release and repatriation of civilian prisoners, missing Indian defence personnel and fishermen along with their boats,” it said.
“In this context, Pakistan was asked to expedite the release of nine Indian civilian prisoners and 229 Indian fishermen, who have completed their sentences and whose nationality have been confirmed.
“Immediate consular access has also been sought for the remaining prisoners and fishermen to facilitate their early release and repatriation.”
The statement also said that in order to take further the understanding reached to address the humanitarian issues, especially with respect to elderly, women and mentally unsound prisoners, India has already shared the details of the reconstituted Joint Judicial Committee and that of the Indian medical experts team to visit Pakistan to meet the mentally unsound prisoners.
In the face of the chill in bilateral relations, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj suggested that the two sides could progress on humanitarian issues related to elderly, women, children and mentally unsound prisoners when Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood called on her here in October last year after freshly assuming office.
The Joint Judicial Committee was first formed in 2007. It consisted of retired judges of the higher judiciary who visited and met prisoners in each other’s jails and proposed steps to ensure humane treatment and expedite release of prisoners and fishermen who have completed their prison terms.
“Pakistan has also been requested to allow the visit of a group of fishermen representatives to facilitate the repatriation of Indian fishing boats, presently held in Pakistan’s custody, at the earliest,” the statement said.
Earlier, in Islamabad, a Pakistan government statement said it has handed over a list of 471 Indian prisoners in the country to the Indian High Commission here.