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India, Pak working on mechanism for release of fishermen

Last Updated: Friday, April 22, 2011 - 22:13

Islamabad: India and Pakistan on Friday
announced that they were working on setting up a mechanism for
the release of fishermen who inadvertently cross the maritime
boundary between the two countries as part of measures to
expedite the release of all prisoners.

In keeping with a decision made at a meeting of the
Home and Interior Secretaries in New Delhi last month, India`s
Coast Guard and Pakistan`s Maritime Security Agency will work
on setting up the mechanism for "release of inadvertent
crossers (fishermen) and their boats on the same lines as the
inadvertent crossers on land," said a joint statement issued
at the conclusion of a visit to Pakistan by Indian members of
the Judicial Committee on Prisoners.
The two coastal security agencies will submit their
report on this matter to the Home and Interior Secretaries
before the next round of talks between the two officials, the
statement said.

An Indian official familiar with discussions held
during the Judicial Committee`s visit told PTI that the two
sides were considering a proposal whereby first time offenders
would be freed at sea without any lengthy legal procedures.

The Coast Guard and MSA would work out modalities for
this proposal, said the official who did not want to be named.

The official further said that top Pakistani officials
and leaders who had meet the Indian members of the Judicial
Committee had showed a "genuine desire" to ensure the speedy
release of all prisoners.

"All the meetings were very good and there was a sense
that things are moving in the right direction," the official

The Indian members of the Judicial Committee retired
Justices Nagendra Rai, Amarjeet Chaudhary, A S Gill and M A
Khan visited jails in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi where
Indian nationals are being held.
There were a total of 260 Indian fishermen at the
Malir Jail and a juvenile detention centre in Karachi and over
230 other Indian nationals at two prisons in Lahore and
Rawalpindi, the Indian official said.

The Judicial Committee was, by and large, satisfied
with the condition and treatment of the Indian prisoners.

During the visit, the two sides shared lists of Indian
prisoners and fishermen, the joint statement said.

"Consular access was conducted in respect of some of
the fishermen and prisoners on the spot. Further it was
recommended by the Committee to reconcile the figures of the
prisoners and fishermen at the earliest and to allow consular
access to the rest of the prisoners and fishermen in the
second week of May 2011," the statement said.

The committee suggested that the "nationality
verification process should be facilitated."

It further said that prisoners who had completed
their jail terms and possessed travel documents should be
repatriated "at the earliest".

The panel recommended a humane approach in dealing
with fishermen, women and juvenile prisoners, terminally ill
prisoners, those suffering from serious illness or physical
disability and mentally disabled persons.

The Committee further recommended that all prisoners
should be provided legal aid at all stages of their cases by
the two governments.

The Committee suggested that the next visit to Indian
jails by the four Pakistani members of the panel should be
scheduled by the second half of June, subject to confirmation
dates through diplomatic channels.


First Published: Friday, April 22, 2011 - 22:13

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