Have crossed first hurdle: 1971 POWs' kin’s lawyer

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.