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Pak frees 100 Indian fishermen

The Pakistan foreign ministry has reportedly informed the interior ministry that 456 Indian fishermen who had completed their sentences for trespassing into Pakistani waters would be released

Pakistan has started freeing fishermen from India, with the first batch of 100 released from Malir prison in Karachi on August 30, 2010. Another 14 lodged in the same jail could not be freed as the Indian High Commission in Islamabad could not confirm their nationality. 

Pakistan’s former law minister and human right activist Iqbal Haider has written to Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabrawal to re-examine the case of the 14 fishermen at the earliest. According to Haider, these fishermen had completed their sentence and should be released at the earliest. 

The Indian High Commission in Islamabad, in a note dated August 10, informed the foreign ministry that the travel documents of the fishermen, who had completed their prison terms and whose national status had been confirmed, were being prepared and would be handed over at the time of their repatriation. 

According to local media reports, Pakistani jails house around 550 Indian prisoners, 442 of whom completed their sentences several months ago. But they have not been released. The Supreme Court of Pakistan recently issued orders for the release of the 442 prisoners, in response to a constitutional petition. 

The petition was filed by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and other non-government organizations, through Haider. Malir jail authorities said the second batch of 100 fishermen would be released on Thursday, the third batch of 101 prisoners on Saturday, and the last batch of 141 on September 6. 

Fishermen are often picked up by security agencies due to strained diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. Similar to prisoners of war of 1971, the families of fishermen on both sides of the border have been waiting for the release of their loved ones. 

PFF’s Muhammad Ali Shah said: “We are happy that these poor fishermen have been released. This will bring a good name to Pakistan internationally.” There are around 155 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails; Indian peace activists are trying to get them released, he said. 

Both countries must initiate a dialogue and resolve the matter once and for all, he demanded, while pointing out that none of the fishermen had ever been proven to be involved in any illegal activity. 

Source: The Indian Express, August 31, 2010
             The Hindu, August 30, 2010
              Press Trust of India, August 29, 2010