ISLAMABAD: Bitter memories of the 1965 and 1971 wars with India were revisited in the Senate on Tuesday when Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made a shocking disclosure in writing that 18 personnel of the Pakistan Army captured in the two wars had gone missing in Indian jails.
Talking to The News after the Senate session, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Pakistan had already shared a list of its 18 missing soldiers with New Delhi. The soldiers were arrested during 1965 and 1971 wars and were believed to be still in the Indian jails.
This is for the first time that the Foreign Office made a confession in writing before the upper house during the Question-Hour that apart from 920 Pakistanis detained in Indian jails, 18 Pakistani soldiers were part of the list of those missing in Indian jails. The foreign minister did not give the required detail about their names and ranks. Qureshi told the house that a total of 920 Pakistanis were detained in Indian jails out of whom 770 were civilians, 132 fishermen and 18 missing defence personnel.
The fresh disclosures at the government level might revive the hopes of families of the missing soldiers in Indian jails. Pakistani soldiers may not be alone facing this kind of sorry fate in the Indian jails. In 2006, a group of desperate Indian women had visited the Pakistani jails after the then president Pervez Musharraf, as part of confidence building measures between the two countries, had given them a special permission to locate the Indian soldiers reported to be missing in the Pakistani jails. The Indian women, mostly blood relatives of the missing Indian soldiers, were allowed to visit the Pakistani jails, meet all foreign prisoners and identify their blood relatives, if any. These Indian women had built pressure on their own government to raise the issue of missing Indian soldiers in Pakistani jails after reportedly, one of the detained Indian soldiers during the 1971 war, had written a letter to his relatives in India from a Pakistani jail, informing them he, along with several other soldiers, were still alive.
But, despite this extraordinary act of human gesture shown by the then leadership of Pakistan, the group of Indian women had returned empty-handed, quite disappointed as they could not trace a single soldier detained in Pakistani jails.