14 Pakistani fishermen freed by India reach Karachi

May 17th, 2008 - 6:01 pm ICT by admin  

By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 17 (IANS) Fourteen Pakistani fishermen released from Indian jails in a “goodwill gesture” reached Karachi Saturday where they were received by a team of the Fishermen’s Cooperative Society (FCS). “All the 14 fishermen released are in good health and have also brought messages from other Pakistani fishermen in the Indian jails,” Rahim Kaka, a member of the FCS, told IANS from Karachi on telephone.

He said all 14 fishermen are Karachi-based and were arrested by Indian security forces July 17, 2007 and Oct 11, 2007 for allegedly fishing in Indian territorial waters.

Pakistan and India share maritime boundaries in the Arabian Sea. As there is a controversy over precise demarcation in the Sir Creek, no permanent sea border lines have been settled between the two countries.

Thousands of Pakistani and Indians depend for their livelihood on fishing in the Arabian Sea and some of them inadvertently end up crossing into the other country’s territory because of tidal currents, wind force, cyclone and engine failures.

Such fishermen are caught and jailed by the marine agencies of the either side on charges of spying and other crimes. Both countries treat such fishermen like prisoners of war.

Kaka said 120 more Pakistani fishermen are detained in various Indian jails and their 25 boats have also been confiscated by authorities. Similarly, the number of Indian fishermen arrested by Pakistani security forces has soared to 430 with the confiscation of their 63 boats.

He said 35 Indian children, accompanying their elders, were also in Pakistani jails though they were separated from their gaurdians and put into a juvenile jail in Karachi.

Meanwhile, the families including the women and children of the arrested fishermen often live in terrible conditions facing starvation, Kaka said.

“I am not just talking about the Pakistani but the Indian fishermen as well,” he told IANS.

A fisherman blamed security forces on either side for their plight. “It’s not just about fishing in the other country’s waters or spying but there is huge money involved in it,” he said requesting anonymity.

He said: “Personnel of the security agencies deliberately let the fishermen go into the territory of the other country where they can be arrested.”

Also, when fishermen are arrested, authorities confiscate their boats, which cost in the range of Rs.1.5 million to Rs.3 million.

“There are also fishing nets worth lakhs (100,000) of rupees and always those boats are captured which have catch of at least Rs.100,000… the boat has other equipment which also costs hundreds of thousands rupees and when these fishermen are released they never get back these things,” he said.

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