THE EIGHTEEN Indian fishermen who were released by Pakistan on Sunday after they completed their prison term there were handed over to Indian authorities at Wagah border in Punjab on Monday. This is third batch of Indian fishermen released by Pakistan this year.
“The fishermen have been handed over to our team that had gone to Wagah border to receive them. They will board a train to Gujarat either at late Monday night or early on Tuesday morning,” state fisheries commissioner MA Narmwala said.
The team of officer which has gone to Punjab to receive the release fishermen is led by Ashok Patel, assistant director of fisheries of Navsari. The released fishermen hail from various coastal districts of Gujarat and they are likely to reach their native place in two days.
This is third batch of Indian fishermen to be released by Pakistan this year. In March this year, the western neighbour had released 174 fishermen in two batches. The 18 were apprehended by Pakistan Marine Security Agency (PMSA) around three years ago for allegedly violating territorial waters of Pakistan by allegedly crossing the notional International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) at Arabian Sea. They were lodged in Karachi’s Malir Jail.
According to Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), an organisation of activists from the two neighbouring countries, these fishermen had completed their prison term in 2014. However, they continued to languish in the Pakistan jail for about two more years as India and Pakistan took long time in verifying their nationality, alleges the organisation.
“There are 465 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani prison. An Indian fisherman Sonu Singh Roshan is under treatment in Mental Hospital, Hyderabad, Pakistan,” said general secretary of Indian chapter of PIPFPD Jatin Desai. Manish Lodhari, general secretary of Gujarat chapter of Indian Fishworkers Forum welcomed the release. “This is a welcome step as these fishermen had been lodged in jail for long time. Similarly, the remaining fishermen should also be released soon. At the same time, we demand that 50 odd Pakistani fishermen who are in custody of India should also be released and repatriated,” Lodhari told The Indian Express.