151 Indian prisoners handed over by Pakistan at Wagah

Pakistan handed over 150 Indian fishermen and another prisoner held for crossing the border to Indian authorities at the Wagah border in a goodwill gesture by Premier Nawaz Sharif who is in India to attend the swearing in ceremony of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.

PTI| Last Updated: May 26, 2014, 21:53 PM IST

Lahore: Pakistan on Monday handed over 150 Indian fishermen and another prisoner held for crossing the border to Indian authorities at the Wagah border in a goodwill gesture by Premier Nawaz Sharif who is in India to attend the swearing in ceremony of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.

Fifty nine prisoners were released from the district prison Malir in Karachi and 92 from the Nara prison in Hyderabad, officials said.

Out of the 151 people handed over to the Border Security Force at the Wagah border, 150 were fishermen and one was a prisoner in Karachi jail who inadvertently crossed into Pakistan from the Sindh border.

They were brought to the Wagah Border from Karachi by buses.

"After going through their papers they have been handed over to the Indian authorities," a Rangers official told.

Talking to reporters fisherman Dapu Teja said he learnt bead work in jail.

"I get Rs 60 per every piece I make and I know how to make bracelets, anklets, necklaces and key chains with beads," he said.

Teja was on board a ship which allegedly crossed over into the Pakistani territory seven months ago.

He said there were seven people on the boat but only four were arrested by the Pakistan coastguards.

"They let the three older fishermen go back as they will have been a burden here due to their age," he said.

Another fisherman named Nanji Soma said: "I am an illiterate man good enough to catch fish only but my son will not be one. He is 10 years old now and goes to school. In my absence the fishermen community back home contributed for my poor family to keep sending him to school."

"Now I will go back and work again and also pay back my friends. I may get caught again as there are not clear boundaries marked in the sea to keep us from drifting into your country but it will not happen to my son," he said.

Kamal Shah of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has appealed to the Indian government to release the Pakistani fishermen locked up in Indian jails.

Sharif yesterday ordered the release of the 151 Indian prisoners and 57 boats, a day before his visit to India.

Meanwhile, the freed fishermen will be spending the night in Amritsar as railway authorities `refused` to provide additional coaches for Mumbai-bound Golden Temple Express tonight, sources in Gujarat government claimed.

Ninety-two of the 151 fishermen are from Junagadh, 10 from Valsad, five from Jamnagar, one from Navsari and the rest from Diu-Daman, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal (working as boat crew).

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel had sent a team of senior officers of the State Fisheries Department to Punjab to receive the fishermen.

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, in a statement here, welcomed the release of the fishermen. She claimed that the release, on the day of swearing-in of Narendra Modi-led NDA government in Delhi, was "a historic co-incidence" and it will prove crucial in maintaining cordial relations between India and Pakistan.

The team of Gujarat officials would return to Veraval in the state, along with the fishermen on May 29, sources said.

The Chief Minister noted that so far 4,682 fishermen could be brought back due to the Gujarat government`s repeated requests to the Centre to act on the issue.

The Gujarat government pays Rs 150 per day to the families of captured fishermen and Rs 4.93 crore have been disbursed for the purpose between 2004-5 and 2013-14, official sources said.