Twenty-five sailors from Gujarat were convicted by a Pakistan court on Tuesday and jailed for allegedly entering its waters. A magisterial court in Gwadar in Sindh province of Pakistan convicted 25 sailors of Kutch and Jamnagar districts for illegally entering in territorial waters of Pakistan early last month. The court sentenced all the 25 sailors to 10 days rigorous improvement. They were also asked to pay a fine of Rs 1,000 fine each.
However,Salaya Sailing Vessels Owners Association (SSVOA),an organisation of vessel owners of Gujarat,claimed the Pakistan agencies had wrongly arrested and prosecuted the sailors in breach of the guidelines of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
According to SSVOA,Indian wooden sailing vessel MSV Al-Faruqi set sail for Dubai from Tuna Port near Gandhidham in Kutch on April 10 with 1,317 sheep and goats and 11 crew members on board. However,the vessels engine broke down on April 13 near Gwadar port and it drifted to Pasni coast of Pakistan. Its owner made a distress call to another Indian vessel,MSV Al-Burhan which was on its way from Mundra to Dubai with no cargo on April 16. Al-Burhan,with 14 crew members on board,reached near Al-Faruqi on April 19. But the same day,the Pakistan Navy or Coast Guard authorities arrested the 25 sailors and took possession of the twin vessels.
Both the vessels carried valid documents of registration and port clearances. Instead of responding to A-Faruqis distress calls,the Pakistan agencies arrested the sailors disregarding the IMO guidelines of rescuing vessels in distress, Adam Bhaya,general secretary of SSVOA,told The Indian Express.
The same day Bhaya wrote emails to Ministry of External Affairs,Ministry of Shipping,Indian High Commission in Pakistan and Indian Coast Guard,seeking their intervention.
The Indian High Commission responded saying it would take up the issue at relevant time,but could not stop prosecution of the sailors. Indian Coast Guard conveyed to their Pakistan counterpart that the sailors and vessels were Indian and had valid documents but to no avail.
If Indian authorities do not take up the matter immediately with their Pakistan counterparts,the sailors would be sent to jail in Karachi and,from our experience in 2001 and 2002,they might not be repatriated before 18 months as we fear delay in completing formalities, Bhaya further said.