Warm welcome back home for Pak prisoners freed by India
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:22
Lahore: Thirty-one Pakistani nationals released from Indian prisons received a warm welcome from civil society groups when they arrived in this eastern city today.

The freed prisoners included seven fishermen. They were received and garlanded by members of civil society organisations at the Wagah land border.

Emotional scenes were witnessed as they kissed the soil and chanted slogans like "Pakistan Zindabad".

India's Border Security Force handed over the prisoners to the Pakistan Rangers, which will send them to their homes after an investigation.

The Pakistanis were jailed in India on charges of mistakenly crossing the border, visa tampering and overstay.

Farzana Mumtaz of the NGO South Asia Partnership Pakistan told reporters that the release of Pakistani and Indian prisoners was made possible by the efforts of the civil society groups.

Pakistani authorities recently freed 442 Indian fishermen who had completed their prison terms after two NGOs filed a case in the Supreme Court seeking their release.

The fishermen were arrested for violating Pakistan's maritime boundary and had been held in jail for years after they had completed their prison terms ranging from six months to a year.

A delegation of Pakistani civil society organisations comprising Justice (retired) Nasir Aslam, Iqbal Haider and Karamat Ali Shah recently visited India and held meetings with Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, Home Minister P Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and rights activists Kuldeep Nayar, Mahesh Bhatt and Jatin Desai to seek the release of Pakistani prisoners.

As a result, the Indian government agreed to release 89 Pakistani prisoners.

The first batch comprised the 31 prisoners who returned to Pakistan today.

"The remaining 58 will be home once Pakistani authorities complete their paper work," Mumtaz said.


First Published: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 22:22

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