Karachi: Pakistani authorities have released 198 Indian fishermen, who were languishing at a jail here after being arrested for allegedly fishing illegally in the country’s waters, and handed them over to India at the Wagah border.
The fishermen were released from the Malir Jail in Karachi on Thursday evening.
Malir Jail superintendent Nazir Tunio said that they had released the first batch of Indian fishermen prisoners and two more batches would be released in June and July.
“We released 198 prisoners on Thursday while 200 and 100 more would be released later on,” he said.
Tunio said that 200 Indian fishermen were to be released on Thursday from Malir jail but two of them died due to illness.
The two deceased fishermen included one Muhammad Zulfiqar who passed away on May 6 and Soma Deva who died on May 9 after prolonged illnesses.
Their bodies have been kept in the Edhi Foundation mortuary till they could be flown out to India.
Soma and his nephew were among a dozen Indian fishermen who were arrested at sea some four and half years ago and they were lodged in the Malir jail.
Soma was twice sent to the hospital for treatment.
Tunio said Zulfiqar died after a massive heart attack.
Faisal Edhi of the Edhi Welfare Trust, which arranged the transportation of the fishermen from Karachi to Lahore via train where they were handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border, said some of the Indian fishermen also looked unwell.
“We do our best to make the journey back home of these Indian fishermen comfortable and easy. After all, most of them have been in jail for the last 4 to five years,” he said.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum General Secretary Saeed Baloch said that under the agreement reached between the two governments, a second batch of 200 Indian fishermen would be released on June 2 and another 100 on July 3.
Baloch said he had a lot of sympathies for the Indian fishermen as the majority of them were just out for a livelihood and did not even realise it when they crossed territorial waters between the two countries.
“The sad part is that some of them even end up spending 7 to 8 years in jail before they get a chance to return home,” he said.
Fishermen Cooperative Society, Sindh administrator Zahid Ibrahim Bhatti said that some 200 Pakistani fishermen were lodged in Indian jails and hopefully they, too, would come home soon after the release of Indian fishermen.
Pakistan and India regularly arrest rival fishermen for violating the maritime boundary, which is poorly marked at some points.