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India-Pakistan Decide to Exchange Women, Elderly, Disabled Prisoners

There are 457 Indian prisoners in Pakistan’s jails, and 344 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, as per official record.

Ceasefire violations along the India-Pakistan border are hitting new heights with the number of casualties on either side on rising every day.

Responding to this spike in violence, both nations are now working towards de-escalating the situation along the Line of Control, which they hope will lay down the path to a “comprehensive dialogue,” reported the Indian Express.

One of the measures for de-escalation that New Delhi and Islamabad have agreed on is the exchange of three categories of prisoners—women, disabled prisoners, and elderly inmates above 70 years old.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif also agreed to India’s proposal of allowing doctor visits to mentally challenged prisoners and sending them back to their home country.

Both countries also decided to revive the system of judicial committees on either side, comprising of retired judges to oversee the condition of prisoners. Above and beyond India’s proposals, Asif also pushed for the exchange of prisoners who are minors and senior citizens (above 60 years of age).

At the start of this year, both nations exchanged a list of prisoners in each other’s prisons. In Pakistan, there are 457 Indian prisoners, comprising of 399 fishermen and 58 civilians. Meanwhile, India is currently housing 344 Pakistani prisoners, comprising of 94 fishermen and 250 civilians.

Wagah border. For representational purposes only (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Wagah border. For representational purposes only (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“The External Affairs Minister of India had, in October 2017, suggested to the High Commissioner of Pakistan that the two sides could progress on humanitarian issues related to elderly, women, children and mentally unsound prisoners. We note that today Pakistan has responded positively to EAM’s suggestion to work towards the release and repatriation of prisoners over 70 years of age and women prisoners who are in each other’s custody. Further, a visit of a team of medical experts would be organised to meet the mentally unsound prisoners to facilitate the repatriation of such prisoners,” said Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs.

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“It has also been agreed to resume the visits of the Joint Judicial Committee which looks into the issues of fishermen and prisoners. The last visit of such a committee had taken place in October 2013 to India. The officials on both sides would be working on the modalities to implement the understanding reached on these humanitarian issues,” Kumar added.

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New Delhi’s position on ceasefire violation has remained consistent with suggestions that Indian armed forces are only responding to Pakistani attempts at facilitating infiltration of militants.

Asif, meanwhile, has argued that initiatives like the exchange of prisoners will allow both nations to “embark on the road to a comprehensive dialogue,” and make a “conscious effort to de-escalate the extremely vitiated current environment and the situation.”

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