Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court`s
direction to the Centre over the release of 1971 prisoners of
war (POWs) is the "first hurdle" crossed in what is a long
battle ahead, according to the advocate who fought the case
for the families of the POWs for over a decade.
"We have done it," said advocate K M Paul after the High
Court directed the Government to approach the International
Court of Justice (ICJ) within two months for the release of 54
Indian POWs of the 1971 war languishing in Pakistani jails.
"I am the happiest person on this planet today. This is
just the first hurdle that we have been able to cross after
over a decade long battle," said a delighted Paul, who
expressed his willingness to provide all help to the Centre to
prepare their case for the international forum.
The advocate said that the case was taken up by his
father M K Paul in 1998 after reading about the plight of the
POWs in a local news daily.
"He (father) approached late Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Arora
with the facts after doing some research following which Singh
filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court in 1999," he said.
Paul said that the matter of POW was first raised in the
Rajya Sabha in 1978. Later, late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
too acknowledged that there were Indian POWs in Pakistani jail
in 1981, he added.
Paul also showed some of the correspondences by Gandhi
in this regard.
He said that in September 1996 MP Satish Pradhan
raised the issue of release of Indian POWs in Rajya Sabha, to
which the then Defence Minister I K Gujaral had replied that
the government was making effort in the matter.
"Even former Pakistan Prime Minister late Benazir Bhutto
had admitted to the fact that there were Indian POWs in
Pakistan jail during a SAARC summit in 1999," the lawyer said.
"Even my father M K Paul had raised the issue at the
International Human Rights Conference in 2003 chaired by then
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan," he added.