India, Pakistan exchange lists of prisoners

Pakistan has handed over a list of 53 Indian civilian prisoners and 410 fishermen who are in jails there in a move aimed at expediting the release of nationals who have completed their sentences. It has also identified 26 juvenile fishermen who are in custody in Pakistan. In turn, India has provided a list of over 100 civilian Pakistani prisoners and 14 fishermen who are in jails here.

The lists were exchanged on Monday at the behest of a joint Indo-Pak judicial committee set up last year to look into the condition of prisoners jailed in both countries. The eight-member committee with four retired senior judges each from India and Pakistan held its first meeting here on February 26 to discuss the way ahead and sought early release of those who had already served their sentences.

The matter of release of nationals in jail in either country has become a sensitive issue, particularly after the death sentence for Sarabjit Singh who has been jailed in Pakistan and the death of Pakistani national Khalid Mahmood in Indian custody. While India has been seeking early release of its fishermen in Pakistani custody, Pakistan wants India to reciprocate by releasing its civilian prisoners. But India has pointed out that the two cannot be equated, say official sources.

Sarabjit's sentence was deferred after appeals from India. But Pakistan has expressed its unhappiness about Mahmood's death. He was arrested for overstaying after coming to watch a cricket match in Mohali in 2005 and was lodged in Gurgaon's Bhondsi jail. He died after being admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in February this year.

The judicial committee had urged the two governments to provide consular access to the prisoners and hoped they were treated in a humane manner. However, India has been able to get consular access to some of these prisoners.

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