Antony meets POWs’ kin visiting Pakistan


New Delhi : A group of 14 Indians visiting Pakistan to verify if their kin are lodged in its jails as prisoners of war (POWs), Thursday called on Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who hoped their efforts would be successful.

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"Your visit is a breakthrough. I hope it will serve to clear the air about the whereabouts of your loved ones," Antony told the group during a 50-minute meeting at his South Block office.

The group leaves Friday on a 14-day visit. It is expected to visit jails in Karachi, Sukhur, Multan, Sahiwal, Faisalabad, Mianwali, Rawalpindi, Swabi, Dargai and Lahore.

Antony assured them that the government "would continue to pursue the issue of missing POWs with Pakistan till we find the truth".

"The seriousness of the government can be gauged from the fact that the prime minister has personally taken up the issue," Antony added.

The group urged Antony to help in arranging a meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

"The government will take all steps through our high commission in Islamabad to arrange a meeting," the minister said.

The agreement for the visit had been reached at a meeting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had with Musharraf in Islamabad in January.

"A small group will go. They can go and verify if any of their relatives are in (Pakistani) jails as prisoners of war (PoWs)," Mukherjee had told parliament in March.

"We have given from time to time over the years a list of 74 PoWs that are being held in (Pakistani) jails (since the 1971 war). Pakistan has flatly denied on each occasion that even a single POW is in its jails.

"Therefore, we said that there is a demand from the families (of the POWs) that they would like to visit Pakistan. Musharraf agreed to receive a small delegation," the minister had said.