- By Sajjad Shaukat
Recently, Indian Supreme Court has taken notice on the writ petition, filed by Prof. Bhim Singh, senior Advocate against the illegal, improper and unconstitutional detention of nearly 254 Pakistani prisoners and those of Azad Jammu and Kashmir languishing in Indian jails for over a decade.
Despite the anti-Pakistan pressure of the extremist outfit BJP and other Hindu fundamentalist groups led by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the dilemma of Pakistani prisoners has attracted the attention of the Indian Supreme Court which has taken notice of this atrocious conduct of New Delhi.
Indian Supreme Court has asked the central government to provide detailed information about 254 Pakistani prisoners imprisoned in Indian jails either as under-trial prisoners or as convicts.
The apex court has also asked the details of Pakistani prisoners who illegally crossed the border, the crime record of the prisoners, information about actual number of prisoners under trial, total number of prisoners who are not under judicial custody and about the number of Pakistani prisoners who have already completed their punishment. The court has also raised questions about the identification process of prisoners as well as the management process pertaining to these prisoners’ repatriation to Pakistan.
Notably, over 50 Pakistani prisoners have completed their sentence in Indian jails and are still struck up in India, as in the pretext of confirmation their nationality status, Indian authorities did not release them.
It is mentionable that in 2008, Pakistan and India had signed an agreement to grant consular access to prisoners in each other’s jails in order to reduce the anguish of the prisoners.
India has arrested hundreds of Pakistan’s nationals, often accusing them of being spies after they have strayed across the land or maritime border due to unconscious mistake and staying with an expired passport. It also includes some tourists who went to India. Quite contrary to the well-treatment of Indian spies in Pakistani jails, Indian secret agency RAW and other security agencies employ various techniques of torture on the so-called Pakistan’s suspected persons. Some Pakistani citizens and prisoners have also been killed in Indian jails, while a majority of them has been killed by Indian security agencies in fake encounters, particularly those persons, arrested in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.
It is notable that government of Pakistan released Indian spy, Surjeet Singh who was handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border crossing. He was given death sentence in 1991.
The then Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari commuted death sentence of another Indian spy of RAW, Sarabjit Singh into life imprisonment on June 26, 2012, who was set free from Jail in July, 2012 and was handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border crossing.
Surjeet Singh openly admitted that he was in Pakistan to spy when he was arrested in 1982. In this respect, Surjeet Singh said, “I was a RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) agent. No one bothered about me after I got arrested.” Surjeet told reporters soon after stepping on Indian soil.
While, about Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, Surjeet Singh revealed, “Sarabjit Singh is a terrorist and terrorists are neither released.”
Besides, Indian spy Surjeet also pointed out, “All Indian prisoners are treated well in Pakistani jails. Sarabjit Singh is also doing well there…I was treated well by prison officials and I am thankful to them.”
However, both Surjeet Singh and Sarabjit Singh were responsible for the string of blasts in Faisalabad, Lahore, and Multan in 1990 in which several innocent people were killed. They were also behind other terror-activities in Pakistan.
On June 28, 2012, BBC reported, in recent years, “several Indians returning from Pakistani jails have admitted to spying for Indian intelligence agency RAW” and some have criticised India’s government for abandoning them.”
It is mentionable that in April 2011, Gopal Das, one of Pakistan’s longest-serving Indian prisoners, was released after Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari intervened in his case.
Upon his release, Das admitted he was an Indian spy. Similarly, Kashmir Singh, sentenced to death in Pakistan in 1973 for spying, was released in March 2008. Afterwards, he also admitted that he was spying for RAW.
It is noteworthy that that confession of the crime by the Indian released prisoners showed Indian government’s involvement in terrorist acts which occurred in Pakistan from time to time.
It notable that litigation over the fate of 189 Pakistani prisoners reportedly languishing in Indian penitentiaries took a new turn on April 5, 2016 when a human rights activist filed a constitutional petition in the Sindh High Court about a list of 17 prisoners waiting for their repatriation, some of them well over 10 years.
And during the previous hearing, the chairman of Ansar Barney Trust International indicated that 189 Pakistani prisoners having gone missing from Indian jails and he was shocked to see the Pakistan government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s silence regarding them.
Nevertheless, as part of good gesture and to stabilize the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) with New Delhi, Islamabad set free several Indian prisoners who had completed their sentences. Pakistan had announced that it would release more that 100 Indian prisoners. In this context, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman stated, “since 2003, Pakistan released 2,657 Indian prisoners, while India has freed 827 Pakistani prisoners.”
But, instead of reciprocating the good gesture of Pakistan, India had sent the dead bodies of two Pakistani prisoners in 2008, while, two Pakistani prisoners had died in Indian custody in the same year, including one Pakistani citizen Mehmoud Khalid who had gone to India in 2005 to watch a cricket test match where he lost his passport. He was subjected to sever torture, resulting in his death. Another Pakistani prisoner Akram who crossed the border in the Kasur area by mistake on February 8, 2008, was arrested by the Indian authorities. He was a patient of schizophrenia. Akram’s brother, Aslam claimed that his brother was tortured to death by the Indian authorities.