It is indeed appalling that the authorities in Indian-held Kashmir have, to this day, been oblivious of some 250 plus Pakistani prisoners languishing in captivity and that too, without ever having faced trials. The Indian courts have finally been made aware of this unfortunate situation that is a blatant violation of not only the prisoners’ right to liberty but also their right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the Human Rights Act. Often, people are captured for inadvertently crossing the border or trespassing into foreign waters, or they are prisoners of war, as there are reports of Pakistani prisoners being in Indian jails since the 1965 and 1971 wars. Imprisoning Pakistani and Indian fishermen or farmers raising livestock near borders on mere suspicion of them being spies is bad enough, but surely there is even less justification for depriving them of a fair trial. It is believed that the basis of such practices has a great deal to do with the longstanding conflict between the two countries. Pakistan’s relationship with India has been tension-ridden and this has caused deep-rooted mistrust to say the least. However, that in itself is no ground for such negligence and inhumane treatment of prisoners, all of whom have worried families across the border. The repatriation process must be extradited without further ado and an investigation should be conducted into how such a situation went unnoticed in the first place.
While the ice is slowly melting on a diplomatic and political level and the governments are making progress in reaching mutual understanding on various issues of conflict, there remains a lot more to be done to break the iceberg below. The issue of innocent people being arrested on both sides of the border is not a trivial one and should be treated as such. Surely, there must be some record of these prisoners in both the countries and the governments must devise a joint policy regarding prisoner exchange or come to some sort of an agreement ensuring the legality of their detention, protection from abuse, and a safeguard of their legal and human rights.
Source: Daily Times (Pakistan) – 14/11/2011