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India and Pakistan- Fishermen issue

  • 28 April, 2021

  • 5 Min Read

India and Pakistan- Fishermen issue


  • Hundreds of fishermen have been languishing in Pakistan’s prisons for years with no end in sight

Issue of human rights

  • Sosa, a fishermen was arrested in May 2019 when the fishing boat he was in allegedly entered Pakistani waters.
  • His sentence in the Pakistani prison ended on July 3, 2019.
  • However, not only was he not repatriated, but he was also not given consular access till his death.
  • Sosa’s case is one more statistic in a long story of insensitivity between the two governments that do not implement agreements. More than anything else, it is an issue of basic human rights.

India- Pakistan agreement

  • India and Pakistan signed the Agreement on Consular Access in 2008.
    • Though the deal has a few lacunae, it was significant.
  • Section 4 of the agreement said, “Each government shall provide consular access within three months to nationals of one country, under arrest, detention or imprisonment in the other country.”
  • Further, Section 5 of the agreement stated, “Both governments agree to release and repatriate persons within one month of confirmation of their national status and completion of sentences.”

A long wait

  • More than 300 Indian fishermen remain in Pakistan’s custody in Malir jail.
  • Consular access is an exception.
  • Without it, the nationality of the person is not confirmed and the repatriation process cannot begin.
  • Though the agreement does not state a time limit, there are numerous instances in which both countries have not confirmed nationality for as long as 18 months, during which the arrested men languish in jails.
  • Fishermen from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat often get arrested when they unintentionally cross over into Pakistani waters.

Sluggish mechanisms

  • Ideally, prisoners should be released and repatriated the day they complete their prison sentence.
  • But this has happened in just one case, with Hamid Ansari, the only person who was released and repatriated on the day of completion of their sentence.
  • Dharam Singh from Kashmir, who had unknowingly crossed over in 2003, spent 18 years in a Pakistani prison.
    • He was eventually sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment, which ended in December last year. But he reached home only this month.
  • In 2007, India and Pakistan set up a joint judicial committee on prisoners comprising four retired judges from each side.
  • The committee used to convene twice a year to meet prisoners.
  • It made unanimous recommendations, including on the release and repatriation of fishermen and women prisoners.
  • Its last meeting was held in 2013, after which it was discontinued. In 2018, efforts were made to revive it, but Pakistan is yet to nominate judges or call for a meeting.
  • The delay is costing lives.

Source: TH


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