On Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs informed Lok Sabha that 83 missing Indian defence personnel including prisoners of war are believed to be in Pakistan's custody. However, the Imran Khan-led government has refused to acknowledge that they are being held in Pakistan. Responding to questions from numerous MPs, MoS MEA V Muraleedharan revealed that 337 Indian prisoners besides the aforesaid missing Defence personnel are incarcerated in Pakistan.
Barring for 33 prisoners, the rest of them have spent less than 5 years in prison. As per the list shared by the neighbouring country on July 1, 2019, it admitted that only 52 civilian prisoners and 209 fishermen are in its custody. Muraleedharan noted that the Centre's persistent efforts have succeeded in securing release and repatriation of 2133 Indian prisoners including fishermen from Pakistan since 2014. In 2020, 364 Indian nationals have returned from Pakistan jails so far.
The MoS MEA assured the parliamentarians that the Union government consistently pursues the case of Indian prisoners with Pakistan through diplomatic channels whereby immediate consular access and their early release is sought. Additionally, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad provides humanitarian and legal assistance to imprisoned Indians. According to the Centre, it regularly distributes items of daily necessity to the incarcerated nationals through the Pakistan jail authorities. Moreover, Pakistan has been asked to release and repatriate the remaining prisoners including 110 of them who have completed their sentence.
Also, the neighbouring nation has been urged to facilitate the visit of a team of Indian medical experts to meet prisoners of unsound mind with an aim to verify their nationality. But, Muraleedharan clarified that Pakistan has not responded to this request until now. He added that the Centre has taken several steps to provide financial assistance to the fishermen whose vessels are held captive in Pakistan. For instance, the Department of Fisheries has a soft loan package for the replacement of such fishing vessels. Furthermore, it provides insurance cover for active fishermen through the Group Accident Insurance Scheme.