Karachi: In a goodwill gesture, Pakistan today freed 151 Indian fishermen, a day ahead of the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi.
Authorities released 59 Indian fishermen from the Malir jail in Karachi and another 92 from Nara jail in Hyderabad in Sindh province.
Syed Nazir Hussain, the superintendent of the Malir jail in Karachi, told PTI that the Indian prisoners were released on written directives of the interior and foreign ministries.
"Most of these prisoners are poor Indian fishermen who were arrested and brought here for trespassing into Pakistani territorial waters," he said.
The freed prisoners were taken in an air-conditioned bus from Karachi to Wagah border in Lahore from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities.
Justice (retd) Aslam Nasir Zahid who heads a legal aid NGO said the government had cooperated completely in the release of the prisoners.
He said his NGO had provided cash, free goods, clothes, gifts and air conditioned buses to take them to Wagah border.
Some of the freed prisoners told Geo News channel that they were delighted to be going back to their families.
"We were treated well and not as serious criminals but everyone wants to go home to their families," one prisoner said.
Last year in August, Pakistan had released around 337 Indian prisoners from jails. Later on Diwali also, 15 Indian fishermen were released as a goodwill gesture.
Pakistan maritime security forces frequently arrest Indian fishermen and seize their boats for fishing in its territorial waters.
According to Indian activists, at present around 229 Indian fishermen and about 780 Indian boats are in the custody of Pakistan.
In addition to this, 23 boats of Indian fishermen had been confiscated just during the ongoing fishing season.
Similarly, around 200 Pakistani fishermen with 150 boats were with India, according to compiled figures.