Twenty Indian fishermen arrested by Pakistan for allegedly entering into the country’s territorial waters are set to be handed over to India through the Wagah border crossing on Monday, according to a senior jail official.
The fishermen, kept in Karachi's Landhi Jail, were released on Sunday on humanitarian grounds. Deputy Superintendent of Police Azeem Thebo said that with the release of these 20 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture, there are now 568 Indian fishermen left in the jail, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The released fishermen, arrested for illegally entering into the Pakistani waters and fishing without permission, were escorted to Lahore by road by the Edhi Foundation. A spokesperson of the Edhi Foundation, a non-profit social welfare organisation, said that the charity would bear their travelling cost to Lahore, where they would be handed over to India's Border Security Force. The Edhi Foundation also paid Rs 5,000 to each fisherman as a goodwill gesture.
One of the fishermen, Bhavesh Bhika, who has served four years in the prison, said that the boat he was on had drifted towards the Pakistani waters at night. “There is no boundary in the sea. We had no way of knowing that we had violated your border,” he said.
Pakistan and India regularly arrest rival fishermen for violating the maritime boundary which is poorly marked at some points. According to the lists of prisoners exchanged by India and Pakistan at the start of this year, at least 628 Indian prisoners were held in Pakistan, including 51 civilians and 577 fishermen. The Indian Government also shared the list of 355 Pakistani prisoners in India, including 282 civilians and 73 fishermen.
Fishermen from Pakistan and India usually end up in jails after they are arrested for fishing illegally in each other’s territorial waters.
The Pakistan Fishermen Forum NGO said that due to the absence of a clear demarcation line in the coastal area of the Arabian Sea between the two countries, fishermen who do not possess the modern-day navigation equipment mistakenly cross the red lines and end up in jails.