Families of arrested Pakistani fishermen urge India to release their men

Pakistan in June released 18 Indian fishermen from a Karachi jail as a goodwill gesture. Photograph:( AFP )

Reuters Karachi, Pakistan Jul 30, 2016, 05.25 PM (IST)
Families and relatives of more than 150 Pakistani fishermen, who were arrested by Indian Navy on a charge of trespassing into Indian waters and were languishing in jails, staged a protest in the southern port city of Karachi on Saturday to demand their release.

Maritime authorities of the hostile neighbours frequently arrest each other's fishermen and seize their boats when they inadvertently venture into each other's maritime jurisdiction.

Experts say this happens because of demarcation disputes in the Arabian Sea and also because many fishing boats lack the technology needed to be sure of their precise location.

Holding banners, placards and pictures of fishermen in Indian detention, the protesters appealed to the Indian government to release their loved ones. They also urged Pakistani government to help secure the early release of the fishermen and their boats.

The demonstration was organised by The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) which is a non-governmental organisation based in Karachi. It works to advance social, economic, cultural and political rights of fishermen and fishing communities in the country.

"One batch of fishermen is released, the other is detained. Fisherfolk Forum and Pakistani fishermen understand that this is the biggest violation of human rights," Mohammad Ali Shah, chairman of The Fisherfolk Forum told protesters.

Deeply saddened by detention of the fishermen, the families said their livelihood would be at stake until the fishermen were released from Indian custody.

"Our boy is in Indian jail since last four years. They were seven when arrested, six of them returned, but this Rasheed never came back. We appeal to the government (of Pakistan) to please take measures for his release," said Zahida, relative of a young fisherman, Rasheed, whose sad mother stood next to her.

Zahida appealed to both Pakistani and Indian governments not to detain poor fishermen.

"Please, Pakistan and India should not arrest each other's fishermen. What will these mothers do who can neither eat nor sleep."

Pakistan in June released 18 Indian fishermen from a Karachi jail as a goodwill gesture.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have a disagreement over their maritime border in the Arabian Sea.

Fishermen from both sides often end up spending years in each other's jails before being set free and sent home, because fulfilling legal formalities takes a long time due to poor diplomatic ties between the two arch-rivals.

However, both countries release the hapless fishermen from time to time as a good will gesture, or on religious festivals.

Pakistan has so far released 199 Indian fishermen this year.