Islamabad/Karachi, Jun 23: Six Indian sailors, who were part of the 22-member crew of MV Suez vessel that was recently freed by Somali pirates, today reached Karachi harbour and would be sent back to India soon.
Pakistan naval ship PNS Zulfiqar carrying the 22-member crew of MV Suez, including six Indians, reached Karachi harbour to an emotional welcome with the Navy band in attendance. Suhail Izaz Khan, Counsellor from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, received the sailors.
Somali pirates released the crew of the Egyptian-owned ship, who were held by the pirates for about 10 months, after huge ransom was paid to them.
“Our gesture is the message of love. I hope that India too will reciprocate with love because Indian sailors have been also saved. I use to hear their families through media, I even talked to some of them. They were really upset,” Sindh Governor Ishrat Ul Ebad Khan said.
In India, family members of the released sailors expressed their joy at hearing the reports of their dear ones reaching Karachi.
“I am very happy to hear the news. In the last one week, there had been problems with the ship. I last spoke to my husband when he was getting on to the Pakistani ship as MV Suez was sinking,” an overjoyed Madhu Sharma, wife of sailor N K Sharma, said.
Shamsher Singh, father of another sailor Satnam Singh said he had lost hope for the return of his son. “I had lost hope completely. But after I spoke to Ansar Burney in April, my hope was rekindled,” he said. Burney, Pakistani human rights activist and former federal minister, was instrumental in getting the hostages released. Burney thanked all those who were involved in the operation to rescue the sailors.
The Pakistan Navy had launched the Operation Umeed-e-Nuh (New Hope) to rescue the crew after MV Suez captain Wasi Hasan requested the evacuation of his crew to save their lives.
The release of crew members was immediately mired in controversy, with both India and Pakistani accusing each other of indulging in risky and dangerous manoeuvres when the freed merchant vessel was being escorted.
The crew, including 11 Egyptians, four Pakistanis and one Sri Lankan, were shifted to Pakistani warship PNS Babar after the MV Suez ran out of fuel and started sinking. The crew was then transferred to another warship, PNS Zulfiqar, for the voyage to Pakistan.
The MV Suez, owned by an Egyptian company, had been first boarded by Somali pirates in August last year. PTI