Islamabad, March 8 (IANS) India and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed on a proposal to release elderly, women, children and mentally unsound prisoners held in each other’s jails on humanitarian grounds, an official statement said on Wednesday.
The proposal, which was approved by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif after consultation with “all the stakeholders”, was extended by India for the release of imprisoned citizens that fall into three categories including female prisoners, prisoners over 70 years of age, mentally challenged or persons with special needs, Foreign Office statement said.
The minister also greenlighted the revival of the mechanism of India-Pakistan Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners, which has been inactive since October 2013.
Under the approved plan, both countries will allow medical experts from the other to travel to their country to examine the mentally challenged prisoners in order to ascertain their eligibility for release.
According to the Pakistan’s Foreign Office, Asif has additionally proposed to India two more suggestions for the prisoners’ welfare, including exchange of prisoners older than 60 years and exchange of child prisoners younger than 18.
The Pakistani Foreign Minister expressed the hope that India will reciprocate Pakistan’s proposals positively “in the spirit that they have been made”, the Foreign Office said.
The statement quoted Asif saying that it was his desire that through initiatives such as the prisoners’ exchange plan, “Pakistan and India would embark on the road to a comprehensive dialogue, and make a conscious effort to de-escalate the extremely vitiated current environment and the situation on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary”.
At least 40 Pakistani citizens are imprisoned in Indian jails who fit the criteria of the three categories mentioned in the approved proposal, according to Dawn.
According to Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Faisal, the proposals to exchange prisoners had been under consideration, however, “they could not be implemented due to LoC (ceasefire violations) and tensions between the two countries”.
In October last year, Sushma Swaraj suggested that the two sides could progress on humanitarian issues related to elderly, women, children and mentally unsound prisoners when Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood called on her after freshly assuming office.