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Pakistan prisoners prefer Tihar than return home

August 21, 2008 11:57 IST

Nearly 60 Pakistani prisoners languishing in Delhi's Tihar Jail told a visiting team of Pakistani judges that they are better placed in the Indian jail rather to return Pakistan.

An eight-member committee of judges from both countries set up last year in March to ameliorate sufferings of prisoners visited central jails of Amritsar, Tihar and Jaipur.

Pakistani members of the team -- Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice Fazal Karim, Justice Mian Mohammad Ajmal and Justice Abdul Qadeer Chaudhry -- arrived in New Delhi on Monday on a four day visit to Indian jails to take first hand account of Pakistani prisoners in Indian prisons. The committee of judges, which included from Indian side Justice Najendra Roy, Justice Amarjit Chaudhry, Justice M A Khan and Justice J. S. Gill, has asked both the countries to exchange lists of prisoners every year in July and January.

The team of Pakistani judges was perplexed here when 62 prisoners in Tihar jail told them they don't want to return Pakistan, sources in Tihar said.

All these prisoners, including 19 women and seven children, belong to Gowhar Shahi sect, who had crossed to India demanding political asylum. The committee could meet just seven Pakistani prisoners willing to return besides these Gowahr Shahi detenues.

Justice Fazal Karim said as per their records there should have been 32 Pakistani prisoners in Tihar excluding Gowar Shahi's. But we could meet only seven prisoners.

"They (authorities) assured us they will trace rest of 25 prisoners, who may have been shifted to other jails," he told media persons in New Delhi.

As many as 678 Pakistanis are languishing in Indian jails and most of them on minor offences like 'inadvertent' border crossings and overstaying. On the other side, there are 267 Indian prisoners and 411

fishermen suffering in Pakistani jails.

A Pakistani has been languishing in Tihar for past 13 years.

Pakistani judges said though they could not find any visible signs of torture and maltreatment of their prisoners in three Indian jails they visited, they were shocked to see 16 Pakistani prisoners having lost their mental balance in Amritsar jail.

"They were not able to relate their addresses and names. So we have decided to advertise their pictures through mass media for their verification and identification to help prepare their travel documents," they said.

The judges were also moved to find youngest Pakistani prisoner one-and-half year old Hina Rahman in Amritsar jail. Her mother Mumtaz Sidique booked under narcotics act was pregnant when she was arrested along with her mother-in-law and other daughter Fatima.

"Their cases are in final stages and we hope they will be released soon," said Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid.

In Amritsar, the team met 54 prisoners. They also completed the verification process of nine prisoners.

"We believe they may be released now anytime within next two weeks to one month," he said.

The committee appreciated India's efforts to repatriate Pakistani prisoners as quickly as possible. The judges appreciated a judgment of Punjab and Haryana High Court that imposed a fine on authorities for overstaying of a prisoner beyond his period of conviction.

The committee was constituted after Foreign Ministers of both the countries agreed in January last year for such a committee comprising retired judges of superior judiciary to visit jails in the two countries and propose steps to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners.

R Prema