The Hon’ble Members,
Greetings from Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, India Chapter!
We are writing to you expressing our concerns on the issues concerning Indian and Pakistani prisoners. At the outset, we want to communicate our appreciation for the initiatives of the Judicial Committee and the prisoners visits organised. We are also thankful to the Judicial Committee for the recommendations you have made to the governments in the past.
We appreciate that the committee has been doing excellent work within its limitations since its inception in January 2007. The joint recommendations of the committee have been appreciated by both the governments and we hope they will address these recommendations with sincerity and willingness. We are happy to share that PIPFPD along with the National Fishworkers’ Forum (India) and the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has been consistently demanding the governments to implement the recommendations made by the Judicial Committee.
We would like to place our demands (on prisoners in general) for the consideration of the JC:
- Prisoners involved in minor offences like crossing the border inadvertently & visa violations need to be treated with compassion and the committee should recommend their release.
- In case of a death of a prisoner his/her body should be handed over to his/her family in 3-4 days time. There are cases where dead bodies were handed over after 25-30 days. Also, a copy of Post Mortem Report should be given to the respective High Commission, so that rumours and speculations that can hamper te spirit of peace are put to rest.
We would also like to bring to your notice the issue of arrest of fisher people belonging to India and Pakistan.
The recent upsurge in the arrest of fishermen and confiscation of their boats since January 2013 has created panic in the coastal areas of Gujarat and Diu. Fishermen are afraid of going to sea to catch fish and this has had adverse effects on the economy and livelihood of the poor workers.
According to our information there are around 300 Indian fishermen in Pakistan’s Malir prison and about 100 Pakistani fishermen in various prisons of India. Also, about 765 Indian boats and over 200 Pakistani boats are rusting in Karachi and Gujarat harbours. These boats are owned by fishermen and are their only source of livelihood.
We appreciate the recommendations given by the Judicial Committee as on January 27, 2012 after visiting Indian prisons and meeting Pakistani prisoners, wherein the recommendations for mechanisms for release of inadvertent crossers and their boats where release at sea was given priority.
We request you to continue to address the issue of arrested fishers from a humanitarian perspective. We request the Judicial Committee to consider and recommend the following:
- All Indian and Pakistani fishermen should be released and repatriated immediately and unconditionally along with their boats.
- We demand for a “No Arrest Policy” for fishworkers, which would be a significant Confidence Building Measure.
- We request that a computerized identity card along with a permit to do fishing be provided to each fisherman in order to speed up the verification process. Presently, due to lack of identity fishermen are languishing behind the bars for many years despite the fact that the maximum sentence awarded to them is six months imprisonment.
- Both the countries must release all fishing boats, confiscated at the time of arrest of fishermen. In the past whenever, the fishermen were released, their boats were also released along with them, but that process has been suspended and now a large number of boats are kept confiscated despite the fishermen being released. We demand that the old system should be revived.
- Constitute a high-level working group involving the representatives from the fisherfolk community to monitor and prevent the arrest of fishermen and confiscation of the boats.
- In the long run, an Economic Cooperation Agreement between India and Pakistan is a requirement that needs to be addressed at the earliest since we are already faced with a situation of depletion of marine resources. A technical solution like a joint fishing zone is an option that would be beneficial to the fishing communities on both sides.
We are hopeful that you will consider the demands from PIPFPD, endorsed by the fisherpeople’s organisations of India and Pakistan and take necessary steps to prevent the misery of the fishing communities. We also hope the Judicial Committee will engage with all sincerity in getting the other innocent prisoners released, without bureaucratic delays.
Ved Bhasin E. Deenadayalan Jatin Desai
Co-Chairperson Secretary Joint Secretary
- Press Release- Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) condemns the brutal attack on Sarabjit Singh, (kractivist.wordpress.com)