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Pak releases 55 Indian fishermen, including 15 teens

August 15, 2012 15:58 IST

Pakistan on Wednesday freed 55 Indian fishermen, including 15 teenagers, from a jail in the southern port city of Karachi as a "goodwill gesture" on the occasion of Independence Day.

The fishermen, most of them from Gujarat, were released from the Malir jail and put on buses for Lahore, from where they will be repatriated via the Wagah land border on Thursday.

"It is a gesture of goodwill from the Pakistan government and we hope India will also reciprocate accordingly," provincial Law Minister Ayaz Soomro told the media at the Malir jail where he saw off the Indian fishermen.

Soomro said that it was only through such goodwill gestures that both countries could build trust and begin a new era of cooperation.

"The government has given clear instructions to the jail authorities where Indian fishermen are based to provide them all facilities," he added.

Rajesh Kumar from Gujarat, who was arrested along with 14 other fishermen last year, said he was overjoyed at being released from jail.

"It is a big moment for us that today is India's Independence Day and today we have been released and will be able to go to our families soon," he said.

Malir jail superintendent Nazeer Hussain Shah told PTI that the Indian fishermen were overjoyed to be returning home and also given gifts and some cash on the occasion.

"I am happy for them as they are some 15 young boys among them. We have faced no problems with them as they have been very cooperative and behave well," Shah said.

Asked about the presence of other Indian fishermen still languishing in Pakistani jails, Shah said although he did not have exact details, there were around 70 to 80 Indian fishermen in different jails in Karachi.

Some 120 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian jails.

The fishermen from both countries are routinely arrested by maritime security forces after they cross into each other's territorial waters.

The fishermen claim they stray into each other's waters as there is no clear divide between the two countries in the Arabian sea.

The two countries have stepped up efforts to release prisoners after they resumed their bilateral peace process last year after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Earlier in June, Pakistan had released 315 Indian fishermen, including 14 teenagers.

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