Pakistan frees 151 Indian fishermen ahead of PM’s visit to New Delhi

Indian prisoners released on written directives from government

KARACHI/LAHORE – In a goodwill gesture, Pakistan on Sunday freed 151 Indian fishermen, a day ahead of the much-talked visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of prime minister-designate Narendra Modi.

Authorities released 59 Indian fishermen from the Malir jail in Karachi and another 92 from Nara jail in Hyderabad. Malir jail superintendent Nazir Hussain said that the Indian prisoners were released on written directives of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Most of these prisoners are poor Indian fishermen who were arrested and brought here for trespassing into Pakistani territorial waters,” he said. The freed prisoners were taken in an air-conditioned bus from Karachi to Wagha border in Lahore from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities.

Aslam Nasir Zahid, a retired judge who heads a legal aid organisation, said that the government had cooperated completely in the release of the prisoners. He said that his organisation had provided cash, free goods, clothes, gifts and air conditioned buses to take them to Pak-India border.

Some of the freed prisoners told a private TV channel that they were delighted to be going back to their families. “We were treated well and not as serious criminals but everyone wants to go home to their families,” one prisoner said. In August last year, Pakistan had released around 337 Indian prisoners from jails. Later on Diwali also, 15 Indian fishermen were released as a goodwill gesture.

The Press Trust of India news service reported that around 229 Indian fishermen and about 780 Indian boats are in the custody of Pakistan. Similarly, around 200 Pakistani fishermen with 150 boats were with India, reported the news service while quoting compiled figures.

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