Indian prisoner dies in Karachi; Pakistan to release 199 Indian fishermen on May 12

Karachi:  Pakistani authorities are expected to go ahead with its goodwill gesture to release on Friday 199 Indian fishermen arrested for allegedly fishing illegally in the country’s waters, despite the death of an Indian civilian who was to be repatriated with them.

Kazi Nazir, a top police official in the jail and corrections department in Sindh, said that they had been told by relevant government ministries to prepare for the release and repatriation of 199 fishermen on Friday. These fishermen will be sent to Lahore and handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border. Currently, these fishermen are lodged at the Landhi jail here.

He said the goodwill gesture process appeared on the course although an Indian civilian prisoner, Zulfiqar, who was to be repatriated with the fishermen died in a hospital in Karachi on Saturday due to an illness.

“According to officials at Landhi jail the Indian prisoner had complained about high fever and chest problems and his condition deteriorated last week so he was sent to the hospital where he passed away due to apparent lung infection, he said.

An official of Edhi Welfare Trust, which usually arranges for the safe transportation of these Indian fishermen to Lahore and provides other help in jails, said that Zulfiqar’s death was not a mystery as conditions in the Landhi and Malir jails are far from ideal and prisoners with poor health and chronic ailments struggle to get regular proper treatment.

Prison doctors or the hospital are generally not equipped to deal with serious ailments and recommend sending the patient to hospital but sometimes it is too late, the official said.

According to the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, at present 631 Indian fishermen and one civilian prisoner are still in the Landhi and Malir jails in Karachi despite completing their prison sentences.

Adil Sheikh, who works with the forum in Karachi, said that these Indian fishermen all ended up in Pakistani jails after being arrested for allegedly violating the marine territorial demarcation treaty between Pakistan and India.

Nearly all of them are poor illiterate people, he added.

In the past as well, a few Indian civilian prisoners have died in hospitals because of illnesses, as per prison authorities.

A total of 654 Indian fishermen are languishing in Karachi jails while an estimated 83 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian jails. Out of the 654 Indian fishermen, 631 have completed their sentences and are awaiting repatriation.

Pakistan and India regularly arrest rival fishermen for violating the maritime boundary, which is poorly marked at some points.