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Pakistan releases 99 Indian prisoners
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May 23, 2008 18:00 IST

Pakistan on Friday freed 96 Indian fishermen and three other civilian prisoners from a jail in Karachi as a goodwill gesture, close on the heels of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to the country.

The move came two days after India and Pakistan signed an agreement on granting consular access to each other's citizens being held in jails of the two countries.

The Indian fishermen and other prisoners will be taken from Karachi to Lahore [Images] before being handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah land border on Saturday, officials said.

Indian authorities had earlier confirmed the nationality of the fishermen and other prisoners. The three civilian prisoners had been held in prison for at least 20 years even after completing their sentences, sources said.

Shortly after Mukherjee arrived in Pakistan on May 20 for a meeting with his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi to review the composite dialogue process, Pakistan's Interior Ministry had announced that the 96 Indian fishermen and three other prisoners would be released as a goodwill gesture.

The fishermen were arrested after they strayed into Pakistan's territorial waters.

Hundreds of fishermen from both countries are arrested every year by India's Coast Guard and Pakistan's Maritime Security Agency for accidentally drifting into each other's territorial waters.

Most of the fishermen spend several months in jail before being released. India and Pakistan have initiated steps for the speedy release of fishermen as part of the confidence-building measures between the two sides.

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