Eighty-six Indian fishermen and another person who were released from prison in Pakistan crossed into India at the Wagah-Attari border on Tuesday after being held up at the crossing for over 24 hours. The Pakistani newspaper Dawn blamed the delay on the absence of any Indian officials at the border to complete the formalities of the crossing over.
Eighty-six of those released are fishermen from Gujarat, arrested by Pakistan for allegedly crossing into its waters in 2015. They were being held at Landi jail near Karachi. One prisoner, Anayat Ula Khan, is from Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir. He was locked up in Lahore jail after he was found in Pakistani territory in 2011.
On Monday, they had all arrived at the Wagah border expecting to cross over, Naran, a fishermen, told The Indian Express. But after waiting the whole day for Indian officials to reach the border and complete the paperwork, Pakistan authorities sent the fishermen to Lahore jail at 10:30 pm. “We were told that Indian authorities didn’t come to receive us. We were suspicious that Pakistan had changed its mind over our release. It was a difficult night for us. Everybody was afraid that we all might be sent to Karachi jail again. We had started the journey from Karachi for India on March 6. But we were again sent to jail in Lahore,” Naran said.
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The fishermen are now put up at the Durgiana Temple premises in Amritsar. Four policemen have been deployed for their security.
They are expecting Gujarat officials to reach Amritsar on Wednesday and escort them back home. Sub Divisional Magistrate Rajesh Sharma said he received a call from the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi at around 9 am on Tuesday.
“I was informed by the Pakistan high commission that 87 Indian prisoners will be released today and they would enter India via the Wagah border in the afternoon. Besides, we also received a call from officials in Gujarat at 9:30 am on Monday about the release of the fishermen. A team from Gujarat will reach Amritsar by Wednesday to take them h”me,” Sharma said.
He said that he had no knowledge about when these fishermen had reached Wagah in Pakistan. “We deputed our officials to complete the formalities to receive all the prisoners as soon as we got the information from Pakistan high commissioner,” claimed Sharma.
He accepted that it was rare case for information about the release of prisoners to come from the Pakistan high commission in Delhi.
“Normally information comes from Indian government. It was first time that Pakistan high commissioner informed us about the release,” he said.