India urged to free Pakistani fishermen languishing in jails

KARACHI: To raise their voice for the release of all those poor Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails for having mistakenly crossed over to Indian waters while fishing on the high seas, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) organised a protest and sit-in outside the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

Fisherfolk from as far as Thatta and Sujawal joined the fishermen of Karachi to protest along with the wives and children of the fishermen in jails.

They were holding banners inscribed with slogans such as ‘Stop arresting poor fishermen’, ‘Stop sending fishermen in coffins’, ‘Indian terrorism unacceptable’, ‘Let fishermen earn their livelihood’, etc.

‘The families of fishermen don’t know when their loved ones will return home, or if they will come back alive even’

The protest was led by PFF chairman Mohammad Ali Shah.

Showing grave concern over the constant arrests of fishermen on both sides, with Pakistani fishermen locked up in Indian jails and Indian fishermen locked away in Pakistani jails, he said that it was an issue of human rights, which were being violated.

“Currently there are more than 127 Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails,” he said, adding that the arrests of fishermen on both sides had been going on since 1987.

“And escalation of war between Pakistan and India always makes matters worse for these poor fishermen,” he said. And this, he added was despite both Pakistan and India being signatories to the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.

“Article 73 of the convention clearly states that no fisherman can be arrested while fishing on the high seas, nor can he be punished or apprehended,” he said while praising Pakistan’s decision of releasing 355 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture. He hoped that the Indian government would also appreciate the gesture.

Gulab Shah of the PFF said that the families of those fishermen doing time in Indian jails felt frustrated. “In many cases their only earning member has been taken away from them. And they are living on other people’s charity,” he said.

Nur Mohammad Themour, also from the PFF, said that the families of fishermen were also afraid. “They are afraid as they don’t know when their fathers, brothers and husbands will return home and if they will come back home alive even,” he said.

The governments of both Pakistan and India have been urged to come up with a fishermen-friendly policy so that the poor fishermen of either country don’t have to suffer like this anymore.