INDIA: The first batch, comprising 200 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani jails, is expected to reach from Malir in Karachi to Wagha Border (Punjab) following their release by Pakistani authorities shortly.
The repatriation of fishermen is the result of concerted efforts being made by the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), and other organisations to release the fishermen from both sides who strayed into each other’s territorial waters while fishing.
Close to 750 fisher prisoners are languishing in the jails of India and Pakistan after they were arrested outside the territorial waters of their country of origin.
As of today, 666 Indian fishworkers are in Pakistan’s Malir jail in Karachi. 631 of them have already completed their sentences, and their nationality has also been verified. 83 Pakistani fishworkers are in Indian jails. Likewise, many of them have completed their sentences, and their nationality has been verified, as NFF mentioned in a statement.
The NFF had urged Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto, and Indian External Affairs Minister, Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to take action on the release of arrested fishermen languishing in each other’s jails beyond the sentenced term.
Besides, the NFF had written to the High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, India, on April 29 requesting an appointment with Bhutto to discuss the urgency of the issue.
At the same time, the NFF had also written to Jaishankar, requesting an intervention with his Pakistani counterpart, Bhutto, to raise the issue bilaterally.
NFF Vice President Ramkrishna Patil said that as per the letter issued by the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan, the fishermen will be released in three batches.
The first batch, comprising 200 fishermen, will be sent from District Jail Malir, Karachi, to Wagah Border within a day. The second batch of 200 fishermen will be sent on June 2, and the third batch of 100 fishermen will be sent on July 3.
The NFF stated that the detention of fishermen after they have completed their sentenced term and spent many years post-completion violates the Agreement on Consular Access of 2008 and is cruelty on the part of both governments.
As agreed by both countries in 2008, both governments have agreed to release and repatriate persons within one month of confirmation of their national status and completion of sentences.
The fishermen’s unions from both sides held press conferences on this issue on April 13 in Ahmedabad and Karachi.
In addition, the fishermen’s unions held another meeting in New Delhi on May 4. It was attended by representatives of different unions, including the South Asia Unity Forum, the Pakistan Fishermen’s Union, the National Commission for Human Rights in Pakistan (Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha), the India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (Evita Das), NFF Vice President Ramkrishna Tandel, the Gujarat Fishermen Samaj (Velji Masani), the Porbunder Fishemen’s Union (Jivan Juggi), and Journalist Jatin Desai.