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RTI Reveals Pakistan’s Secret! More than 500 Indians still imprisoned in Pakistani jails even after completing their sentencesRTI Reveals Pakistan’s Secret! More than 500 Indians still imprisoned in Pakistani jails even after completing their sentencesRTI Reveals Pakistan’s Secret! More than 500 Indians still imprisoned in Pakistani jails even after completing their sentences

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Introduction

In a startling revelation, a Right to Information (RTI) application has exposed Pakistan’s secret regarding the continued imprisonment of more than 500 Indian nationals in Pakistani jails, even after they have completed their respective sentences. The information, obtained from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) by Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), sheds light on the plight of these individuals, including fishermen and civilians, who are still languishing in Pakistani prisons. This article delves into the details of the RTI findings, the current situation of Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails, and the challenges faced in securing their release.

The Plight of Indian Fishermen

Arrests and Imprisonment

The data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs reveals that a significant number of Indian fishermen have been arrested and imprisoned in Pakistan since 2018. In 2018, 45 fishermen were arrested, followed by 138 in 2019, 130 in 2020, 221 in 2021, and 120 in 2022. Despite the recent release of a group of 198 fishermen, along with the unfortunate demise of one within a week of their release, 455 fishermen remain behind bars in Pakistani jails. These individuals are currently held in the Malir District Jail and the Rehabilitation Home in Landhi City, Karachi.

The Pakistani media reports indicate that the Malir Jail in Karachi, where the fishermen are detained, was originally designed to accommodate a maximum of 1,800 prisoners. However, as of December 2022, the facility is housing a staggering 7,000 inmates, exacerbating the already dire conditions. The fishermen have been taken into custody under the Fisheries Act of Pakistan, 1987, which imposes jail terms exceeding two months for specific offenses such as fishing using dynamite or poisonous substances like arsenic or lime.

Indian Civilians Held in Pakistani Jails

Official Secrets Act (OSA) Accusations

Apart from the fishermen, the RTI data reveals that 51 Indian civilians, including six women, are currently incarcerated in Pakistani jails. Out of these, nine individuals have been accused under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) of Pakistan. Among the nine, six have been declared guilty and are serving their sentences, while two others are still undergoing trial. Notably, two individuals who completed their five-year sentences in December 2021 continue to be confined to Lahore Central Jail.

Delayed Consular Access and Bilateral Agreement

The RTI findings also shed light on the delay in providing consular access to Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails, despite a bilateral agreement signed between the two countries in 2008. According to the Consular Access Agreement, both governments are obligated to grant consular access within three months of the arrest, detention, or imprisonment of nationals from the other country. However, the data suggests that this provision is not consistently implemented, leading to prolonged periods of limited communication and assistance for the imprisoned individuals.

Challenges Faced by Indian Prisoners

Mental Health Concerns

The data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs reveals that out of the 51 Indian prisoners held in Pakistani jails, 10 individuals suffer from mental health issues. These prisoners have been admitted to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health in Lahore for treatment and care. Among the six women among the 51 prisoners, three are currently receiving treatment at the same mental health institute. Additionally, two women are residing in Lahore’s Halfway Home Township, which serves as a transitional facility for patients discharged from mental hospitals who are not yet fully integrated into society.

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