Goodwill gesture from Pakistan

  • Pakistan releases 36 Indian fishermen from Karachi prison
  • Gesture in the wake of SAARC handshake, may not be coincidence
  • Maritime Agreement stays unresolved

(P Ravi)

KARACHI, November 28: As much as trade and overall economic dialogue in South Asia suffers due to poor Indo-Pak relations, so does fishing. According to Fishermen Cooperative Society, approximately 400 Pakistani fishermen are currently being held in Indian prisons and 419 Indian fishermen are currently held in Karachi’s District Prison Malir (DAWN).

The poorly defined maritime border in Arabian Sea and the fact that not all fishermen have boats that have the technology to know their exact location leads to fishermen from both ends cross each other’s borders and get arrested in the process. And many of them languish in jails owing to poor diplomatic ties amidst both countries. And many times the prisoners are kept in jail even after completing their sentence.

In such a scenario, news of thirty five fishermen and one civilian being released from the District Prison Malir after completing their sentences, on Friday, comes as a small consolation. The prisoners will be repatriated to India through the Wagah Border in Lahore. When Pakistan Prime Minister visited India, earlier this year, around 151 fishermen were released. The current gesture coming in the wake of the much talked about handshake between the prime ministers at the SAARC summit is not a coincidence, say many from the diplomatic circles.

The fishermen associations from both sides of the borders have been making several representations demanding Maritime Economic Co-operation Agreement to put an end to the unwanted violence and arrests. They are also demanding humane rules to deal with fisher folk who may have crossed the boundary line. But like many other issues that plague the two nations, this too is hardly addressed. Meanwhile fisher men from both sides face the brunt.

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