In a goodwill gesture, Pakistan today freed 151 Indian fishermen while Sri Lanka ordered the release of all detained Indian fishermen on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi.
Authorities released 59 Indian fishermen from Malir jail in Karachi and another 92 from Nara jail in Hyderabad in Sindh province.
In accordance with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s instructions, the prisoners will be handed over to Indian authorities tomorrow at Wagha/Attari border, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a press release.
The freed prisoners were taken in an air-conditioned bus from Karachi to Wagah border in Lahore.
Sharif also ordered the release of 57 boats of the Indian fishermen ahead of his visit to India to attend the swearing-in of Modi. This is the first time in many years that any side has decided to release the boats of these fishermen and it is Pakistan which is taking the first step, the statement said. Pakistan has always said the “issue of prisoners in our respective countries is a humanitarian one and should be taken in that spirit”.
“According to our figures, there are 521 Pakistani prisoners in India, including 168 fishermen,” the statement said, adding “Government of Pakistan hopes that they too will be able to return to their loved ones in Pakistan soon.” Meanwhile, a spokesman of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he has ordered the release of all Indian fishermen ahead of his visit to India tomorrow.
However, Sri Lankan fisheries ministry officials could not indicate the number of Indian fishermen currently in detention.
Pakistan had released around 337 Indian prisoners from jails in August last year. Later on Diwali also, 15 Indian fishermen were released as a goodwill gesture.
Pakistan maritime security forces frequently arrest Indian fishermen and seize their boats for fishing in its territorial waters.
Sri Lankan Navy also arrest Indian fishermen for alleged poaching in Lankan waters. This is the second instance when Sri Lanka is releasing Indian fishermen.
The Tamil Nadu government had been demanding the release of all Indian fishermen before bilateral talks to resolve the fishermen issue could resume.
Sri Lanka had seized over 160 fishermen despite the agreements reached at talks held in Chennai in January.
The bilateral talks began in mid January to find a solution to the fishermen issue that often boils into a major political controversy in India.