Pakistan on Thursday released 219 Indian fishermen who had allegedly strayed into its waters, bringing the total number of Indian fishermen freed from Pakistani jails as “goodwill gesture” in the last 10 days to 439, despite the chill in bilateral ties. The 219 fishermen were freed from Malir jail on instructions from the Interior Ministry as a goodwill gesture, jail superintendent Hasan Sehto said.
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This is the second batch of Indian fishermen released from Pakistan jails since relations between the two countries became tense after the terror attack on an Indian army base in Uri in September for which India has blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit.
On December 25, the Pakistan government had freed 220 Indian fishermen who were in jail for more than a year as goodwill gesture after Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday. Sehto said the Indian fishermen who were released on Thursday would be handed over to Indian officials at the Wagah border. He said that around 110 more Indian fishermen remain in Landhi jail in Karachi.
Last March, the Pakistan government had released 87 Indian fishermen who had been languishing in jail in Karachi for the last two and half years. Pakistan and India frequently arrest each others’ fishermen for violating the territorial boundary.
Poor fishermen from both countries routinely find themselves arrested for illegal fishing as there is no clear demarcation of the boundaries between the two countries in the Arabian sea near Sir Creek and lack of technology has made life difficult for the fishermen of both the countries. Last Friday, Pakistan Maritime Security Agency arrested 66 Indian fishermen for illegally fishing in Pakistan’s territorial waters.
Fishermen from both countries end up languishing in jails for years even after serving their sentences and their only hope of getting released is when the governments decide to take goodwill steps.