The recent decision of a Pakistani military court to award death sentence to alleged Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav has not only strained the already thinned relations between India and Pakistan but also made things difficult for prisoners lodged in jails, including those who have been cleared for deportation. According to sources, 10 Pakistani prisoners were to be released from Indian jails, but the process has halted.
Chairman of the India-Pakistan Prisoners Committee, Bhim Singh, who has filed a petition seeking the release of Jadhav, from the custody of Pakistani authorities, said that the deportation of prisoners from the Pakistani and Indian sides have been delayed.
Singh, who is also the chief patron of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, however, said with the help of a senior advocate of Supreme Court of Pakistan, he will press for the release of Jadhav.
Caught in the crossfire?
Pakistani resident Mohammad Zubair Arami who is charged with carrying out militant attacks in Srinagar has been lodged at Central jail in Srinagar for over five years. Sporting a long black beard, Arami blames the police for framing him in a false case and is among the many Pakistani nationals whose trials have been delayed by years.
Syed Sajid Ali Bukhari, a resident of Sadian Kotli of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), was acquitted in a militant attack case after 19 years. But he remains in custody even after being exonerated, in 2005, of the murder charges which were levelled against him. He has been lodged at district jail Sangroor in Punjab. Bukhari’s counsel Mir Shafaqat Hussain, said that he has recently filed a petition before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking compensation of Rs 10 lakh from the government for his illegal detention. In the petition, Shafaqat said, he has also sought early deportation of Bukhari to his hometown in Sadian.
Hussain said that there are at least 20 cases, which he is currently handling, in which either the Pakistani nationals have served the conviction or they have been acquitted in different cases, but their deportation is not being cleared by the state and the central government.
Zubair said that he has been framed in three cases including two militant attacks at Hyderpora and Bemina in Srinagar and another case of illegal border crossing. “My family is in Multan, Pakistan, and I have my relatives in Azad Kashmir and I had come to meet them. One day when I went for hunting I was apprehended by the Indian Army near the border. I am innocent and am not involved in any of the cases. I have been framed and am being dubbed as a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant," he said.
Zubair said that he was working as an electrician with a private company in Pakistan and had no connection with militancy.
Another LeT militant, Wakas Manzoor of Abbotabad, Pakistan, said that he has been framed in a case of recovery of arms. "I was arrested near the border from Kupwara side and I have been falsely implicated in a militancy case," he said, adding that he was working as a driver in Pakistan.
Hussain said that though Wakas was arrested in Kupwara, police have shown that the arms were recovered in Batmaloo, Srinagar, which is several kilometres away from Kupwara. Zubair said that he has not been able to speak to his family members in Pakistan for many months. “We are taken to Amritsar, where our family members talk to us on the telephone, which is being arranged by the Pakistani High Commission officials. But that happens after months," he said.
Strained relations halt prisoner exchange talks
However, the decision of a Pakistani military court to award death sentence to Jadhav has only made Zubair more wary of his release. "The case has only made things difficult for us. Some 10 Pakistani prisoners were to be released, but that has been halted now," he said.
Even as both India and Pakistan constituted an India-Pakistan judicial committee on prisoners in 2008, consisting of retired judges from the higher judiciary of both countries, to recommend measures to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of fishermen and prisoners, who have completed their prison term, the visit of the committee has not been held on a regular basis due to the strained relations between the two countries. As per government data by July 2016 there were 270 Pakistani civil prisoners and 37 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails. Whereas, there are 516 Indian fishermen and 57 civil prisoners in Pakistani jails.
Singh said that in a recent petition filed for the deportation of the prisoners from both sides, the government has recently disclosed that there are 55 Pakistani prisoners detained in different prisons while 250 Indian prisoners are lodged in Pakistan. "There were many cases which were earlier cleared for deportation by the Indian government, but that has been put on halt due to the row over Yadav," he said.
In the case of Bukhari, in the order issued in 2015, 1st Additional Sessions Judge Jammu, MS Parihar, observed that he was of the opinion that there was no evidence that the accused committed the offence for which he was charge-sheeted. "I am of the opinion that there is no evidence that the accused committed the offences and accordingly the accused is acquitted of the charge framed in terms of Section 273 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC) and the challan is dismissed," read the order.
Bukhari was earlier charged with carrying out a militant attack on a jeep of NHPC officials on 5 September 1995 while it was going from Uri to Srinagar, in which one person was injured and another was killed, but his involvement was not supported by the evidence.
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Updated Date: Apr 24, 2017 09:22:12 IST