India, Pakistan strike deal on civilian prisoners

As a goodwill gesture, India on Tuesday allowed visiting Pakistan's Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah to meet two Pakistani prisoners lodged in high-security Tihar Jail.

Shah, who was leading an 11-member Pakistani delegation for the talks with his Indian counterpart V K Duggal, visited the jail immediately after the two-day long talks ended in New Delhi during which the two sides decided to release fishermen and civilian prisoners who had completed their sentence on September 12.

"I had requested (Home Secretary) V K Duggal to allow us to meet Pakistani prisoners who didn't have consular access. We met two civilian prisoners and collected details of about other (Pakistani) prisoners," Shah told reporters after meeting them.

Shah, who is the first senior Pakistani official to visit Tihar Jail, arrived at the prison where he was greeted by senior officials, reports Hindustan Times.

According to Outlook, Reading out the seven-point joint statement, Duggal said the two sides also agreed that prisoners would be released by New Delhi and Islamabad immediately on completion of their sentence and nationality verification.

"We have also agreed to release on September 12, 2005, all fishermen and civilian prisoners who have completed their sentence and whose national status has been confirmed," Duggal said describing the talks as "frank and forthright."

On the issue of terrorism, the Home Secretary said both sides committed themselves "to combat terrorism and re-emphasised the need for effective steps for complete elimination of this menace.

The talks, which focussed also on drug trafficking besides the issues of terrorism and prisoners, commenced here yesterday during which India submitted to the Pakistani delegation a list of nearly 30 people wanted by it including Specially Designated Global Terrorist Dawood Ibrahim while Islamabad also handed over a list of 37 people mainly drug traffickers.

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