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Synopsis: India Pakistan Agreement on Consular Access is inactive. Hundreds of Indian fishermen have been suffering in Pakistan’s prisons for years with no end in sight.
An Indian fisherman named Ramesh Taba Sosa is the recent victim of an inhuman and crooked system involving India and Pakistan. Sosa died in a prison hospital in Malir Jail, Karachi, Pakistan and his mortal remains have not been returned yet.
- There is no guarantee when his family in Nanavada, in Gujarat, will be able to conduct his last rites.
- Sosa was arrested in May 2019 when his fishing boat entered Pakistani waters. His sentence in the Pakistani prison ended on July 3, 2019, but neither he was sent back home nor he was given consular access till his death. This is an issue of basic human rights.
- In 2008, India and Pakistan signed the Agreement on Consular Access. Section 4 of the agreement states that the governments of both nations would provide consular access. This has to be provided within three months to citizens of another country, under arrest, detention, or imprisonment in the other country.
- Section 5 of the agreement provides that within one month of confirmation of the national status and completion of sentences both governments should release and return people.
What are the impacts of not implementing an agreement on consular access?
- More than 300 Indian fishermen are in Pakistan’s custody in Malir jail. The nationality of a person cannot be confirmed without consular access, which is not easily available. There are several instances in which both countries did not confirm nationality for as long as 18 months.
- In very rare cases, it had happened that a prisoner repatriated the day he completed the prison sentence.
- Other similar cases:
- A fisherman named Vaaga Chauhan died in Pakistani custody in December 2015. His mortal remains reached his village in April 2016.
- Latif Qasim Sama accidentally crossed over to Pakistan in 2018. He was arrested and his sentence ended in April 2019. Latif didn’t get consular access. Ismail Sama returned from a Pakistan jail after 13 years for the same mistake.
- Fishermen from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat often get arrested when they accidentally cross over into Pakistani waters.
- Dharam Singh from Kashmir had unknowingly crossed over in 2003. He spent 18 years in a Pakistani prison. He was later punished by 14 years of imprisonment. This ended in December last year but he reached home this month.
Further steps to take:
- In 2007, India and Pakistan set up a joint judicial committee on prisoners including four retired judges from both sides. The committee used to assemble twice a year to meet prisoners. It facilitated many repatriations.
- However, the last meeting was held in 2013 after which it was stopped. In 2018, efforts were made to restart it, but Pakistan is yet to appoint judges or call for a meeting.
- The revival of the committee should happen at the earliest. Delay is costing lots of lives. Source: click here