( Joint Press Release 18th April 2020 )
Simultaneously Issued from Islamabad, Mumbai, Karachi, Kolkata, Lahore and New Delhi
“Both Indian and Pakistani Governments must initiate dialogue at the highest levels to resolve the violent misadventures on the Kashmir LoC, which has led to heavy militarisation of border villages, violations of the ceasefire and death of civilians 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.”
PIPFPD Chapters of India and Pakistan said this in a joint letter sent to the Governments and foreign ministries of both countries. Addressed to the Indian minister for external affairs Mr. S Jaishankar and Pakistan’s minister for foreign affairs Mr. Shah MahmoodQureshi, the letter welcomed the affirmative efforts of both governments in fighting the COVID-19 infection.
The letter, primarily aimed at requesting both governments to release and repatriate prisoners not charged under serious (heinous) crime cases from each other country’s prisons keeping in mind deadly COVID-19 infection.
Releasing the letter to the media, PIPFPD’s Convener for Committee on Prisoners Concerns, Mr.Jatin Desai stated quoting the letter: “We all are going through a very difficult time. The challenge before us is to save our citizens. Our governments are taking significant steps to save the people. Our prisons are over-crowded and hence possibility of infection is always there. In such a scenario; it is necessary that both the government release and repatriate, all the arrested fishermen who crossed the territorial water ‘inadvertently’, women prisoners and civilian prisoners not charged under serious cases, from their prisons”.
The letter specifically demanded Governments of India and Pakistan 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 was signed by Dr. I.A. Rehman and Mr.MohdTahseen of the Pakistan Chapter and Dr.SyedaHameed, Mr.Tapan K Bose and Mr.Jatin Desai of the India Chapter of the Forum.
Vijayan MJ & M. Tahseen
India Chapter HQ: F-10/12, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi (+91 9869077718, +91 9868165471)
Pakistan Chapter HQ: 11, Temple Road, Lahore (+92 3008480821)
The tense relations between India and Pakistan severely impact the life and livelihood of the fishing communities in both countries. The depiction of arrested fishermen by the other country gives a sad picture. The following details and analysis are only of Indian fishermen arrested by Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (MSA) in the Pakistani waters. The details of Pakistani fishermen arrested by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) are not made available by the Indian Government. But, the scenario is not different from what Indian fishermen face.
As on today (13th Feb 2020), 207 Indian fishermen are in the custody of Pakistan and 99 Pakistani fishermen in Indian custody. Pakistan has given Consular Access (CA) to Indian High Commission officials in case of 107 Indian fishermen. Pakistan must provide CA to 100 more, also since most of the Indian fishermen have completed their sentences.
Shockingly, out of 107, India could confirm nationality of only 29 fishermen. Ideally Pakistan should have released them by now. At the same time, India need to confirm the nationalities of all those arrested fishermen. The delay in confirming nationalities hurt the arrested fishermen and their families, which are waiting for their return. Not confirming nationality even after 2-3 years is inhuman, to say the least. The cases of Venod Mirji, Sunee lPiyaray Lal, Rajo Vinod, Bachi Lal Ram Sehwak, Babu Piyaray Lal and others are shocking. Venod’s sentence got over in 23.05.2017 and he was given CA on August 2017 but still his nationality is not confirmed. Similarly, Suneel’s sentence was over on 21.02.2018 and was provided CA in December 2018; Rajo was provided CA in December 2017 and his sentence got over on 21.02.2018; Bachi was given CA in December 2017 and his sentence got over on 21.02.2018 and same thing with another fish worker by the name Babu.
The bilateral Agreement on Consular Access signed on May 21 2008 categorically says, "Each Government shall provide consular access within three months to nationals of one country, under arrest, detention or imprisonment in the other country." It further says, "Both Governments agree to release and repatriate persons within one month of confirmation of their national status and completion of sentences."
The fact is both governments are not implementing the agreement in letter and spirit. The experience shows that in most cases both India and Pakistan are not providing CA within the three months of arrest. Also they are not releasing and repatriating persons within one month of completion of sentences and confirmation of national status.
1) Both countries implement the agreement of 2008 in letter and spirit and also they must confirm the nationality of their arrested citizen within a period of three months of consular access. In a world of information technology, confirming nationality of arrested persons within a period of three months is not difficult
2) Pakistan must reciprocate the Indian Govt. in appointing the respective members of the Joint Judicial Committee on prisoners (the mechanism was instituted in 2007 but has been made defunct since October 2013).
Jatin Desai (Convener Sub-Committee, Fishers Release issue, PIPFPD India) +91-9869077718
Vijayan MJ (General Secretary, PIPFPD India) +91-9868165471
The ceasefire violations and firing taking place on the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir is a matter of grave concern. India and Pakistan are blaming each other for ceasefire violations and cross border firing that began on the night of Wednesday (October 1st) and is continuing till date.
According to reports published in Indian and Pakistani news papers, more than 18 civilians have been killed and about 60 persons have been injured – in this recent spate of ceasefire violations. While India claims that Pakistani troops violated ceasefire in the Poonch sector on October 1st, Pakistani side claims that on Sunday October 5, the Indian troops violated the Line of Control (loC) ceasefire and resorted to unprovoked firing in Jandroot Sector near Kotli. The Indian side alleged that Pakistani forces shelled the village of Arnia about three kms from the border on 6th. The violence has engulfed almost the entire Line of Control (LoC) from Krishna Ghati (KG) sector to Mankote, Balakote, Keriand even Bhimber Gali (BG). With Pakistani and Indian troops resorting to weapons fire and mortar shelling, thousands of villagers have been displaced.
Far away from the international border the waters of the Indian Ocean and the fishing activity their have been severely impacted by the increased number of orchestrated arrest of fishermen by India and Pakistan. In last one week Pakistan has caught 22 Indian boats and arrested around 125 Indian fishermen. Indian authorities have also arrested six Pakistani fishermen and one boat. This goes on to prove that the tension on the border is directly impacting fishing communities of both the countries.
With elections round the corner in key Indian states including J&K; and the domestic turmoil in Pakistan, ‘border nationalism’ is being resorted to by both nations. The wars and military actions have yielded nothing but death, destruction and misery for the people of divided Jammu and Kashmir.
The experience shows that the dispute will not be resolved through use of military means and can only be resolved through political dialogue based on mutual trust.
We appeal to both India and Pakistan to urgently stop ceasefire violations and implement ceasefire agreement in letter and spirit.
We urge immediate restoration of “flag meetings” and contacts between the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan.
We call upon the governments of India and Pakistan to allow the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play an active role in monitoring the ceasefire. UNMOGIP is meant to supervise ceasefire line established under Karachi Agreement in 1949. Joint monitoring of the border is the best option in the prevailing situation. It is required at this point that a team of UNMOGIP brings out a status report after visiting affected areas on both sides of the border.
A team of senior reporters on both sides must hold visits to the border villages and help bring normalcy to the situation. We urge the media and journalists, reporting in India and Pakistan, to withhold from the one-sided reporting and trading of allegations.
We believe restoration of dialogue and peace talks at the highest level alone can bring back normalcy and peace to the thousands of suffering people, living in border areas and also the fisherpeople who have been a casualty to this increased hostility.