For every 1 prisoner released by Pakistan in 2018, India released 5

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Dec 18, 2018, 10.50 PM(IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

File photo of Hamid Nehal Ansari. Photograph:( Agencies )

Story highlights

Still many cases remain unacknowledged by Pakistan. There are still 83 missing Indian defence personnel whose custody Islamabad didn't even acknowledge.

The Hamid Nihal Ansari incident has highlighted the case of many Indian and Pakistani nationals languishing in Pakistani and Indian jails despite completing the terms. Here are some key facts on how many prisoners and fishermen have been released by both sides. 

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, Pakistan released 14 Indian civilian prisoners in the last 4 years, while India released 124 Pakistani civilian prisoners. This year, with the inclusion of Hamid Nihal, Pakistan released just two Indian civilian prisoners while New Delhi released 10 Pakistani civilian prisoners. Clearly, for every 1 prisoner released by Pakistan in 2018, India released 5. 

When it comes to fishermen, Pakistan released 1,514 Indian fishermen in last 4 years while New Delhi released 155 Pakistani fishermen in last 4 years. When it comes to 2018, Pakistan released 148 Indian fishermen and India none. 

Under the India-Pakistan ‘Agreement on Consular Access’ signed on 21 May 2008, every first of January and July Islamabad and Delhi exchange list of civilian prisoners and fishermen of each country lodged in their respective jails. 

According to the lists exchanged on July 1, 2018, there were 108 Pakistan fishermen and 249 Pakistan civilian prisoners in India’s custody. Pakistan has acknowledged the custody of 418 fishermen and 53 civilian prisoners who are Indian or are believed to be Indian in their jails.

Speaking in the Parliament earlier this year, Minister of State, External Affairs, General VK Singh, assured that the "Government regularly takes up the issue of early release and repatriation of Indian fishermen along with their boats with the Pakistan authorities." 

Jatin Desai, the man responsible for Hamid Nihal Ansari's release had called on governments of India and Pakistan to release more prisoners and look into the issue. Jatin told WION, "We also believe, there are many prisoners. Hamid is not alone. They need to be released. They need to be seen from a humanitarian perspective. Hamid can set an example."

Still many cases remain unacknowledged by Pakistan. There are still 83 missing Indian defence personnel whose custody Islamabad didn't even acknowledge.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, in October 2017, suggested to the High Commissioner of Pakistan that the two sides could work together to resolve the humanitarian issues related to elderly women and mentally unsound prisoners in each other’s custody and consider their early release and repatriation.

It was proposed to revive the mechanism of Joint Judicial Committee and that a team of Indian medical experts could be allowed to visit the mentally unsound prisoners with a view to facilitating their nationality verification and subsequent repatriation. Pakistan responded positively on 7 March 2018. 

In a press release welcoming Nihal's release, the MEA hoped that Pakistan would "respond and organize an early visit of the Joint Judicial Committee so that the issues of prisoners can be dealt with in a humanitarian and timely manner."

India has shared the details of the medical experts' team and the reconstituted Joint Judicial Committee to Pakistan with a request to organise their visit. Pakistan has not responded so far.