Treatment given to Indian prisoners here is no different from that of Pakistani prisoners there
On July 15, 2006, four days after the Mumbai train blasts, Muhammad Hanif, a 40 year-old resident of Orangi town in Karachi, landed at Ahmadabad airport in India on a usual business trip. He reached his hotel at 6 in the evening. Half an hour later, he found a group of police officials wanting to interrogate him at the local police station.
"They [the policemen] forced me on the ground as if I was an animal and began asking strange questions," Hanif tells TNS. "They wanted me to admit that I had a role in the Mumbai train blasts. On my constant denial I was subjected to torture."
Hanif was kept in the lockup for over a month and then, one fine day, a police official told him he was free. "They put me in a police van and told me I was going to be handed over to the Pakistani Rangers on the border. But after 15 hours' drive I found myself at the Joint Interrogation Centre (JIC) in Bhuj. I started crying, while the police officials laughed."
At the JIC, Hanif found himself among inmates from different countries including Pakistan. Physical and emotional torture was a usual thing there. "I was often given dirty water to drink and the food served was not quite edible. They would club my soles, hang me upside down and force me to lie on ice cubes which resulted in the numbing of my body parts. I was never given hygienic food in the jail. They wanted me to admit that I was an ISI spy or a Lashkar-e-Taeba member!"
Ansar Burney Trust fought his case and, after 11 months, the Indian authorities came to the conclusion that he hadn't any involvement in terrorist activity of any kind in India and decided to release him.
"The day I returned to Pakistan, officials of intelligence agencies got hold of me right at the border and began to interrogate me. They thought I had turned into an Indian agent."
"Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails are treated so badly that most of them lose their mental balance," contends Chandigarh-based human rights activist and Chairman World Human Right Protection Council, Advocate Ranjan Lakhanpal, talking to TNS on the phone. "Some of them become so physically useless that they cannot even change their clothes by themselves.
"They are placed in separate cells and a majority of them work as servants of the Indian inmates [in the jails]," he adds.
Ranjan has helped free more than 450 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. "A majority of them were held for crossing border, overstaying or going to a city that was not specified on their visa. The maximum punishment for this, according to the Indian law, is not more than 6 months whereas these prisoners are kept in jails for 10 years and even longer.
"Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails are also not given remuneration like other inmates, for the 'labour' they do," he says, adding that most Pakistanis arrested in Rajasthan are presupposed as spies "but in Punjab this isn't very common."
Ranjan blames the government of Pakistan for being an "equal partner in crime": "The government of Pakistan does not seem concerned about its own people who are languishing in Indian jails. At least it never offered me any help in acquiring the identification data of these people. I've been working for the rights of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails for a long time now and even managed the release of one prisoner after 21 long years.
"The Pakistani government usually refuses to recognise the mentally imbalanced inmates as its citizens," he says. "All Pakistani prisoners who complete their sentence are packed off to the Amritsar jail which is known for being a torture cell."
The family members of Pakistanis who have spent time in Indian jails complain of weird changes in their attitudes. "My husband is prone to crying," says the wife of Muhammad Hanif. "He has become paranoid and cannot easily step out of the house, let alone go to work. He fears he'll be caught again."
Pakistani human rights activists working on Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails say the story on this side of the border is no different. According to Sarim Burney, Vice-Chairman, Ansar Burney Trust, "The people who are arrested on the suspicion of being spies are given the worst treatment imaginable."
Sarim urges both India and Pakistan to act maturely on the issue. "Our media covers only the miseries of Pakistani prisoners in India and overlooks the hardships Indian prisoners face here."
However, he admits that the Pakistani authorities "may be treating the Indian prisoners better, but this is only marginally 'better'; it's largely very harsh."
"Over the past five years, we have released six dead bodies of Indian prisoners from Pakistani jails. The number of bodies coming from India is more than that," says HRCP's Rao Abid Hameed who handles the cases of Pakistani prisoners in foreign jails and prisoners from other countries in Pakistani jails.
Rao adds that the overall conditions in Pakistani jails are pathetic. "One can understand the kind of treatment Indian prisoners must be getting [in these jails]. Physical torture is not the only issue; the prisoners are also not given access to health care or even hygienic food."
His view is that the treatment given to Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails is comparatively better. "Indian authorities do not stop letters from these prisoners to come to Pakistan whereas on the other hand Pakistan does not allow any kind of communication between the prisoners and their families."
Rao strongly believes the government officials on both sides of the border are "not interested in solving the issue. They formed a judicial committee on prisoners a few years back to ensure their humane treatment and speedy release, but so far nothing has come of it."
Sub: "Application For My Deportation From India..."
The Incharge Prisoner Cell
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Sub: "Application For My Deportation From India to Pakistan Rightly on Completion of My Sentence on 04.09.11"
Most honourly, I am a Pakistani national (Presently lodged in Central Jail Sri Ganga Nagar, Rajasthan, India), R/o VPO Kanwan Lit, Daska, Distt. Sialkot, Punjab and my CNIC # 34601-0782772-9.
I was serving as government medical officer incharge basic health unit Glotean Khurd (Sialkot), when arrested on 12.07.08 by border security forces of India on entry into Indian territorial land without legal entrance documents (Passport & Visa).
My term is going to end on 04.09.11. Despite completing hard custody in this foreign land, I will not be repatriated; instead I will be detained under section 109 Cr.P.C. of India, rightly after my release from jail. During this unjustful detention period, if my deportation to Pakistan is ordered by central government of India, then I will be deported through legal route. And if not so, then I will be detained for another six months and so on.
It is brought to your kind information that same procedure of detention is being repeated for last many years with other five prisoners in this jail under cases of trespassing. Other six Pak prisoners who have died untimely in this jail due to various diseases (during my short custodial time), all had served their respective sentences and were facing unjustful detentions...
This is clearly injustice and a high level cruelity. ...Both the governments are responsible for our untimely deaths and late deportations (delayed ones). ...It is your moral duty to motivate Pak government to make necessary arrangements for our timely repatriation.
I am much worried about my acquittal and deportation. Already I am undergoing my custody on antidepressant medications which I am taking since my arrest. My depressive mood, my physical diseases, family conditions, fear of detention, uncertainty of my acquittal date, hopelessness related to future and career, and above all ill mental states of co-Pak prisoners, are just finishing me out.
Keeping in view above mentioned facts and circumstances, it is requested to you most humbly and respectfully, 3 months prior to acquittal date, to suggest/motivate government of Pakistan's related ministry to make necessary arrangements required for my repatriation from India rightly on the day my sentenced term is completing on 04.09.11, involving/consulting government of India, thus securing the future and family of an astrayed son of your beloved motherland on humanitarian grounds and also in the interest of justice as :
"JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED"
Dr Tayyab Tahir s/o Mohammad Yaqoob (Late)
U.S. 3/6 IPPR, 3/14 F.Act
FIR No. 144/08
PS: Hindumalkot, Sri Ganga Nagar
Sentenced on 17.02.11
Sentenced by: JMIC Court Sri Ganga Nagar
Sentenced to 3 year imprisonment & fine Rs.5000/-
Confined in Central Jail Sri Ganga Nagar,
Address for Correspondence:
Dr Tayyab Tahir (Pak Prisoner)
Central Jail Sri Ganga Nagar Rajasthan, India.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
By Mehtab Haider
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Page 164 of 178
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
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