Fifteen Indian fishermen released from Pak jail



Karachi: Fifteen Indian fishermen were freed from the district Malir jail here Sunday by Pakistan as a goodwill gesture and will be repatriated to India via the Wagah border Monday on the eve of Diwali.

The fishermen were released from the jail this morning, officials of the Indian High Commission said.

They travelled in a bus to Lahore, from where they will be sent to Wagah to be handed over to Indian authorities.

The fishermen were arrested on charges of violating Pakistan's maritime boundary and cases were registered against them under the Foreigners Act and Fisheries Act.

Some of them had completed their prison terms months ago.

Leading rights activist Ansar Burney said the expenses for repatriating the fishermen will be borne by his trust.

The fishermen were identified as Lakha Deva Bhaliya, Misri Solanki, Parkash Solanki, Karo Govind Vaja, Sunjay Jeeva Saraniya, Jeeva Badiya, Bhika Bamaniya, Amrit Lal Bamaniya, Vijay Lakshman Solanki, Jitendra Kumar Vans Jethwa, Kalu Ram Vala, Chunnilal Krishan Bamaniya, Babu Bhika Bamaniya, Mansukh Solanki and Premji Rama Jethwa.

"They will be handed over to Indian security forces tomorrow. The order to release them came this week from the Interior ministry and is a goodwill gesture," Malir jail superintendent, Nazir Shah said.

He said so far 693 Indian fishermen had been released from his jail.

Indian fishermen are routinely arrested by Pakistani Maritime Security forces for straying into Pakistan's territorial waters most of the time by mistake due to the absence of any clear demarcation in the Arabian sea between the territorial waters of the two countries.

"These fishermen are brought to the jail by the Docks police station after being produced in court," Shah said, adding that he was happy at the release of the Indian fishermen as they would be able to spend Diwali with their families.

An official in the provincial home ministry said that the Indian fishermen were released on humanitarian grounds because of the Diwali festival.

Last month, Pakistan's Maritime Security Agency arrested 57 Indian fishermen on charges of illegally entering the country's exclusive economic zone.

The arrested fishermen sometimes languish in jail for months even after completing their prison terms.

After the two countries revived their peace process last year after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, they took several steps to speed up the release of fishermen.

PTI