Lahore, May 19: Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Pakistan beginning Tuesday, may pave the way for the release of at least 96 Indian prisoners languishing in various Pakistan prisons and who have already completed their jail sentences. The prisoners would be released as the Indo-Pak Judicial Committee on Prisoners, set up to review cases of the prisoners who have completed their sentences in both the countries, had recommended release of such Indian prisoners, The News quoted sources as saying.
he Judicial Committee had in February 2008 recommended that the two countries exchange the list of each other's nationals lodged in their jails. It had also suggested several steps, including immediate release of the prisoners of both the countries, who had completed their sentences and whose nationality had been verified.
Hopes for the release of almost 436 Indian fishermen, who have been languishing in Pakistani jails since many years, have surged as the Pakistani government granted consular access to all of the prisoners held in the Pakistani jails, in April, said the paper.
It also quoted officials at the Indian High Commission as saying that the consular access had helped ascertain nationality and other antecedents of the Indian prisoners, and that this was really a crucial step required to repatriate the Indian prisoners to their homeland in the future.
India had already released 14 Pakistani fishermen, who were rounded up by the Indian maritime forces in July 2007, from the Gujarat jail and they were repatriated to Pakistan through Wahga border last weekend, in a goodwill gesture ahead of Pranab's visit to Pakistan. The Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi was also granted the consular access to the release fishermen on the recommendations of the judicial committee.
Talking about the agenda of bilateral talks to be held between the Indian Foreign Minister and his Pakistani counterpart on May 21, the officials said that both the foreign ministers would discuss various issues including mainly CBMs and the Kashmir issue, and the early repatriation of fishermen.
Pranab Mukherjee would also take up issue of the Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who is facing execution in the terrorist blasts in which more than 14 Pakistani people were killed, with his Pakistani counterpart in the light of the recent development in that case.