Pakistan unable to release ‘mentally ill’ Indian prisoners who can’t remember who they are

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India are trying their best to ensure the return of 17 ‘mentally unstable’ Indian prisoners to their homes but are facing difficulties because the prisoners cannot remember who they are.

The Pakistani government informed the Indian High Commission in Islamabad about the prisoners and allowed special consular access to these prisoners hoping to get clues to help relocate them to their homes.

“These persons have not been able to disclose any other particulars during the consular access,” the Ministry of External Affairs conveyed to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Indian High Commission has sent the pictures of all 17 prisoners to New Delhi to trace their family members. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to put up their pictures on social media, inviting people to identify them.

However, a home ministry official said that although using social media was a good idea, they were not sure it would work because they did not have much information on the prisoners.  “Other than the pictures and their names, we have no other information. Identifying their families here is a tough task. We are not even sure if their names are correct.”

A home ministry note on these prisoners reads, “These Indians have completed their sentences but due to non-confirmation of their nationality, they could not be repatriated to India.”

Among the 17, four are women who have been identified as Gullu Jan, Ajmeera, Naqaya and Hasina.

The others are Sonu Singh, Surinder Mahto, Prahalad Singh, Silrof Salim, Birju, Raju, Bipla, Rupi Pal, Panwasi Lal, Raju Mahouli, Shyam Sunder, Ramesh and Raju Rai.

Officials also hope that seeing the return of these Indians would have a positive impact on the relations of the two countries. Hostilities between the two countries increased in recent months and led to the cancellation of the National Security Adviser (NSA) level talks.

There have been past instances where mentally ill prisoners had been sent back to their respective countries after their nationality had been confirmed.

According to the Agreement on Consular Access signed on May 21, 2008, both countries are required to exchange lists of prisoners in each other’s custody twice a year, on January 1 and July 1, respectively. As per those lists, 403 Indians, including nearly 350 fishermen, are in Pakistani jails serving their jail terms for various crimes, whereas, 278 Pakistani prisoners are in Indian prisons. These lists were exchanged on July 1, 2015.

On August 2, Pakistan released 163 Indian fishermen held for violating its territorial waters as a goodwill gesture and on August 7, India repatriated sixteen Pakistani prisoners. 

—-This article originally appeared on Daily Mail

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