On a day External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj condemned Pakistan in Parliament for its “inhumane” conduct towards the family members of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Pakistan government released 145 Indian fishermen arrested for straying into Pakistani waters in keeping with a schedule notified to India earlier this month.
The fishermen were released from a jail in Karachi and are being escorted by Pakistani authorities to Lahore, from where they will cross over through Wagah into India on Friday, an official said. Almost all the fishermen are from Gujarat and Diu. They were caught by Pakistan Navy or Coast Guard on different dates over the last two or three years, and charged under the Foreigners Act for trespass. The maximum sentence in such cases is six months, but the process of granting consular access and nationality verification effectively puts off the release by several more months.
In a letter to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad on December 18, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry communicated that it would release/repatriate 145 fishermen on December 29. Another batch of 146 fishermen is to be released and repatriated on January 8. The repatriation process for such a large number usually takes hours, as exit papers have to be prepared by immigration officials at Wagah before the crossover. The arrested Indian fishermen were lodged in Landhi jail in Karachi, and after their release on Thursday, are being transported to Lahore by road.