India and Pakistan must immediately “release and repatriate prisoners not charged under serious (heinous) crime cases from each other country’s prisons keeping in mind deadly COVID-19 infection”, the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) has urged in a joint letter to India and Pakistan addressed to India’s minister for external affairs S. Jaishankar, and Pakistan’s minister for foreign affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
The letter, issued simultaneously from Islamabad, Mumbai, Karachi, Kolkata, Lahore and New Delhi on Friday, notes that the “prisons are over-crowded” which increases the possibility of infection.
Given this situation, PIPFPD urges both governments to immediately “release and repatriate all the arrested fishermen who crossed the territorial water ‘inadvertently’, women prisoners and civilian prisoners not charged under serious cases”. Specifically, the letter calls upon them to:
1. Release and repatriate all fishermen languishing in each other country’s prisons as they entered each other’s water ‘inadvertently’ (Charges against them are non-serious in nature)
2. Release and repatriate all women prisoners from the custody of each other
3. Release and repatriate all other prisoners who are not charged in serious cases.
The letter also addresses the violent “misadventures” on the Kashmir Line of Control that have led to the border villages becoming heavily militarized, leading to ceasefire violations, and loss of lives, both civilian and armed forces personnel.
“We demand both governments withdraw immediately from such border skirmishes. We also demand that arrests and violence against fishermen at sea is put on hold with immediate effect”, said PIPFPD, urging India and Pakistan to initiate dialogue at the highest levels to resolve these issues.
Signatories on behalf of PIPFPD Pakistan are I.A. Rehman and Mohammad Tahseen, and on behalf of PIPFPD India, Dr. Syeda Hameed, Tapan K. Bose and Jatin Desai who also officiates as PIPFPD Convener for Committee on Prisoners Concerns.
The Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners instituted in 2007 has not met since 2013. In 2018 both countries agreed to revive it and India nominated for judges. Pakistan has yet to do so.