24 Indians set free from Pak jail return home

The Pakistani government in a "goodwill gesture" yesterday announced the release of 14 fishermen who had spent nearly 15 months behind bars in Karachi`s Malir Jail.

Lahore: Twenty-four Indians, including
two women, languishing in Pakistani jails, crossed into their
homeland from the Wagah border today, as an Indo-Pak judicial
panel demanded "fast-track release of each others fishermen"
and save them from becoming "victims of maltreatment".

The Pakistani government in a "goodwill gesture"
yesterday announced the release of 14 fishermen who had spent
nearly 15 months behind bars in Karachi`s Malir Jail.

However, the authorities today decided to free another
10, including two women.

"We have handed over 24 Indian prisoners, including
two women, to the Border Security Force today," Pakistan
Rangers spokesman Mahboob Hussain said.

The Indian authorities just before the foreign
ministers level talks in New Delhi this week released 87
Pakistani fishermen from different Indian jails.

Most Indian fishermen released today are aged between
25 and 30 years. They hail from Junagadh and other areas of
the Gujarat state.

They had been arrested eight months back for crossing
the international maritime border and entering Pakistani
waters in the Arabian Sea.

Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, chairman Sindh
government committee for welfare of prisoners, told reporters
that both Pakistan and India should ensure a "fast-track
release of each other’s fishermen" and save them from becoming
victims of maltreatment.

Justice Zahid, who is also a member of the
India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, said that the
eight-member committee had repeatedly recommended by consensus
to the two governments to release all fishermen either already
tried or under trial for their alleged violation of sea

"It does not make sense to arrest and prosecute the
fishermen for their unintentional faults at sea and delay
their return to their country on one pretext or the other," he

The maritime security agencies of the two countries
should evolve a certain mechanism to warn the fishermen found
near the border.

Justice Zahid was of the opinion that the governments
of the two neighbouring countries could also constitute a
joint committee to examine the cases of sea border violations,
instead of registering cases under the foreign act against the
fishermen, who strayed into the other country’s territory, and
putting them in jails for a long time unnecessarily.

Apart from the jail terms the fishermen had to
undergo, there was a question of return of fishing boats often
captured by the two countries back to their owners, he said.

"About 600 big and small boats of the two countries
are undergoing destruction, because there is no arrangement or
agreed ways for their transfer to the respective owners on
both side of the borders," Justice Zahid said.

Indian authorities had released 87 Pakistani fishermen
who were captured between November 2010 and January 2011 for
illegally entering Indian waters in the Arabian Sea.


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