In a good news, Pakistan released 18 fishermen of Gujarat on Sunday and will hand them over to Indian authorities at Wagah border in Punjab on Monday. These fishermen were caught by Pakistan for allegedly violating its territorial waters and have completed their jail terms.
“Today Pakistan has released 18 Indian fishermen from its Karachi prison. These fishermen will enter India from Wagah/Attari border tomorrow noon. Originally from Gujarat, they were languishing in prison even after most of them had finished their sentences in late 2014 and now they will be with their families in next couple of days,” said a release form the Indian chapter of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), on Sunday.
PIPFPD is an organisation of activists of India and Pakistan working for promotion of peace and harmony between the two neighbours.
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Officials of Gujarat government confirmed the development. “Yes, we are told they are releasing the 18 fishermen. We have sent a team to Wagah border to receive them tomorrow,” state fisheries commissioner MA Narmawala told The Indian Express.
However, PIPFPD criticised governments of both the countries over what it termed as “delay” in releasing the fishermen.
“(PIPFPD) feels that these fishermen had to languish in prison because their nationality verification took a long time. PIPFPD has been demanding since a long time that the nationality must be verified within a period of three months. In an age of information technology, it is not an impossible task to identify someone’s nationality within three months,” said Jatin Desai, general secretary of PIPFPD, India while adding the organisation had been pursuing the matter of these 18 fishermen for a long time.
The release of the Gujarati fishermen comes days after PIPFPD wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking release and repatriation of six minor fishermen who were caught by Indian security forces along with 12 others on May 11.
The notional International Maritime Boundary Line at the Arabian Sea is a contentious issue between India and Pakistan. Fishermen from one country often get caught by security agencies of the other neighbour. Every fishing season, hundreds of Indian fishermen are caught by Pakistan Marine Security Agency (PMSA) for allegedly violating the IMBL. Similarly, Indian Coast Guard and Border Security Force also nab Pakistani fishermen for allegedly crossing over to Indian side of the water border. Majority of such incidents take place off Kutch coast.