KARACHI: The Pakistan government on Friday released 45 Indian fishermen, three of whom were children while another three were disabled persons. They were held for violating the naval borders of Pakistan.
The freed prisoners were received from a Karachi jail by social worker Ansar Burney and activists of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum. They left Karachi via a bus to reach the Wagah border from where Indian authorities will assume control of their travel homewards.
Earlier, Interim Prime Minister Justice (R) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso announced the release of these Indian fishermen on humanitarian grounds and as a gesture of goodwill. However, only 45 fishermen were eventually released, as six others are yet to complete their sentence. The released prisoners were in jail for seven to nine months.
42 of the 51 fishermen under this charge were kept in Malir Jail, Karachi, while three others were kept in Karachi’s Juvenile Jail.
The three minor fishermen, Vipal, Ramesh and Akshay, while talking to journalists, said that they belonged to poor families and were the only bread winners for their households since their parents were unable to work. They expressed happiness at their release after having being kept in jail for so long.
The disabled fishermen, narrating their plight, said they can barely perform any hard work, and started working on the fishing boats by helping crew members pull nets, earning only a small sum of money for their labours.
Fishermen in Indian jails
There are a total of 479 Indian fishermen in Pakistan jails, out of which 45 were released on Friday. On the other hand, 223 Pakistani fishermen have been languishing in Indian jails for years.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) spokesman Sami Memon, along with Talib Kuchi, Kamal Shah and Ayoub Shan expressed hope that Indian authorities would take a similar decision to release Pakistani fishermen.
Memon said that both governments had confirmed the presence of 151 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails while the rest are still missing, though their relatives claim they are be in Indian jails and should be released soon.
The Pakistan government expressed the hope that the Indian government would reciprocate the gesture and release the Pakistani prisoners held in Indian jails.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2013.