A group of 141 Indian fishermen were released by Pakistani authorities from a jail in the southern port city of Karachi, completing the process of freeing 442 fishermen who have completed their prison terms. The fishermen, freed from Malir Jail, will cross over to India via the Wagah land border on Tuesday.
All the fishermen being released had been arrested and imprisoned for violating Pakistan's maritime boundaries. A batch of 101 Indian fishermen was repatriated via Wagah on Sunday.
Another group of 100 Indian fishermen was handed over to Indian authorities at Wagah on August 31 and 100 fishermen were repatriated on September 3.
A majority of the fishermen were held in jail for periods of up to three years even after completing prison terms ranging from six months to a year. The Pakistan government ordered the release of 442 fishermen who had completed their prison terms after the NGOs Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum filed a case in the Supreme Court.
Former law minister Syed Iqbal Haider represented the petitioners in the Supreme Court. At the last hearing of the case on August 26, the apex ourt asked the federal Interior Ministry to explain why 456 Indian fishermen were being held in jails in Sindh province even after they had completed their prison terms.
Around 128 Indian fishermen are yet to complete their prison terms while documentation is being done for the release of 12 others who have completed their sentences, said an official of the NGO Saiban, which is facilitating the repatriation of the fishermen. Pakistani NGOs and rights activists like Ansar Burney have asked the Indian government to reciprocate the release of the prisoners by freeing over 100 Pakistani fishermen currently being held in Indian jails.
A delegation comprising Iqbal Haider, Justice (retired) Nasir Aslam Zahid of the Prisoners Welfare and Legal Aid Office and Karamat Ali of NGO Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research left for India yesterday to arrange the release of Pakistani fishermen.