Release prisoners who have completed their terms: Pak leader

As a step forward to normalise relations between India and Pakistan, the two sides should release prisoners who have completed their sentences, Pakistan People's Party vice president and former minister, Zaheer-ud-din Babar Awan on Sunday said.

"Those prisoners on both sides who have completed their sentences should be released," Awan, former Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Pakistan, told a news conference here.

When asked what will be the number of such prisoners, he replied, "I am sure there will be a large number of them".

When asked about the issue of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national on the death row in Pakistan, Awan said that courts decision has to be respected.

"The decision of the courts cannot be overturned by the executive," Awan, senator in Pakistan's Upper House of the Parliament, said.

The two countries should also sign a pact for liberalising the visa regime, which will go a long way in enhancing the people-to-people contact.

Talking about the visit of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to India and inviting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit his country, Awan said, "the acceptance of the invitation by the Indian Prime Minister and his subsequent visit to Pakistan in future will further help in normalising and strengthening the relations".

Batting for friendly ties between the two nations, Awan, who along with former Judge from Islamabad, Chaudhary Mohammad Ramzan is currently on a visit to India, said, "my perception of India-Pak relations is the same as that of a common man. We want peaceful co-existence. This is a testing time for the leadership of both the sides because they have to give results to their nations."

"Dialogue is the only way forward to resolve all outstanding issues. Issues, howsoever contentious they may be, cannot be resolved by boycott and by not talking to each other," he said.

Talking about today's meeting he said, "I think positive signals have emanated after the two leaders met in New Delhi today. It is an important headway towards more open, more composite comprehensive dialogue...I also have great hopes from the media on both the sides and I expect them to play their role in helping carry forward this process of dialogue," he said.

When asked that India wants action to be taken against Hafiz Saeed and other perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks, Awan said that both Pakistan and India being democratic nations must not let any outstanding issues hamper their regional cooperation.

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