New Delhi: Days after PM Narendra Modi’s casual meeting with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif, India will on Monday release 11 civil prisoners in what officials described as a ‘goodwill gesture’.
Pakistan had sought the release of these prisoners as they had all served their sentence. This is the first such gesture from Indian authorities since alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav was served death sentence by a Pakistan military court in April 2017.
The release is significant as it also comes days after Modi’s “exchange of greetings” with Sharif in Astana on the margins of the SCO summit. According to official sources, since it was the first occasion when the 2 leaders came across each other after Sharif’s operation, PM enquired about his health. He also enquired about Sharif’s mother and family.
Only last week India had released 2 kids, Ali Reza (11) and Babar (10),who had “accidentally” crossed the international border in Punjab along with their uncle Mohammed Shahzad who continues to be in India’s custody. The kids were to be released in April but Indian authorities had put it on hold after Pakistan announced the death sentence to Jadhav.
Indian officials said the release of prisoners was a humanitarian issue and should not be linked with further downturn in ties over Jadhav. The government hopes that Islamabad too will facilitate the release of Indian prisoners lodged in Pakistani jails.
According to the government, there are 132 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails, out of which 57 have already served their jail term. Pakistan says that India has to confirm their nationality before it releases them.
The release of Pakistan prisoners comes in the middle of what might turn out to be lengthy legal tussle at the ICJ over India’s petition for Jadhav’s acquittal. India successfully got a stay on Jadhav’s death sentence but Pakistan has said that arguments on the merits of the case will only begin now. It has sought an expedited timetable from the Court for an early “substantive” hearing of the case.