456 Indian fishermen likely to be released from Pak jails
Last Updated: Thursday, August 26, 2010, 21:13
Islamabad: A total of 456 Indian fishermen currently held in Pakistani prisons have completed their sentences and are due to be released, authorities informed the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The information was conveyed to the apex court in a report submitted by the Foreign Ministry.

The report said the Foreign Ministry had informed Interior Ministry that the Indian fishermen who had completed their sentences may be released.

During proceedings, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry remarked that Pakistan had released fishermen in greater numbers than India.

The Indian High Commission in Islamabad, in a note dated August 10, had informed the Foreign Ministry that the travel documents of the 456 fishermen, who had completed their prison terms and whose national status has been confirmed, were being prepared and would be handed over at the time of their repatriation.

The report said these fishermen would be deported to India as soon as their travel documents were received from the Indian High Commission.

The report was submitted by Director India Aisha Farooqui on behalf of the Foreign Secretary when a two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was hearing a petition filed by the Pakistani Fisher Folk Forum seeking the release of Indian fishermen.

The report said that since 2003, Pakistan has released 3,014 Indian prisoners, including 291 civilians and 2,723 fishermen, while India had released 1,066 Pakistani prisoners, including 554 civilians and 512 fishermen.

The apex court sought a report on the issue from the Interior Ministry by September 14. The Foreign Ministry's report further said 132 Pakistani fishermen were currently in Indian custody.

According to an Indian claim made in January, a total of 582 Indian fishermen were detained in Pakistan, it said.

The cases of these Indian fishermen were being reviewed by the Federal Review Board of the Supreme Court.

During a meeting on August 12, the board had reviewed the cases of Indian fishermen detained in Karachi. As a humanitarian gesture, Pakistan?s Prime Minister decided to release 100 Indian fishermen on December 26 last year.

The Indian side subsequently released 31 Pakistani fishermen on January 2 and 17 civilian prisoners on March 27.

On May 28, the Indian government released another 25 Pakistani civilian prisoners and 19 more fishermen on May 31, the report said.

India also released four Pakistani civilian prisoners on June 30, another civilian prisoner on July 23 and 28 more civilian prisoners on August 18.

The Foreign Ministry's report also referred to the Pakistan-India Judicial Committee on Prisoners, which was established in January 2007 and has met thrice.

However, after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the Committee has not held any meeting. The Committee was able to influence both governments to release prisoners and fishermen who had completed their sentences or who were arrested for minor offences.

These efforts resulted in the release of 108 Pakistani and 238 Indian prisoners, including fishermen, in 2008, the report said.


First Published: Thursday, August 26, 2010, 21:13

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