ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday summoned federal and Sindh government officials after a petition challenged the illegal confinement of 582 Indian fishermen in Pakistan. The court also asked the attorney-general to assist in this matter.
The three-member bench, headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani and comprising Justice Arif Khilji and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, was hearing the petition filed by the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum.
The court heard arguments presented by the forum’s counsel, Syed Iqbal Haider who contended that the detained fishermen were not being released despite their having completed their one-year sentence under the Foreigners Act.
The court adjourned the hearing till Aug 26 and issued notices to the Sindh home department, the federal government, secretaries of interior and foreign affairs to appear in person or file written replies. The fishermen are being held in four jails in Sindh – Malir district jail (Karachi), Nara Jail (Hyderabad), and Badin and Naushero Feroze district jails.
The petition was filed after the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and the Pakistan Institute of Labour and Research (PILER) had visited Malir district jail early this month to get the signatures of a few Indian fishermen for a constitutional petition to be filed in the Supreme Court for their release.
According to PILER some of the detained Indian fishermen have been in Pakistani jails for more than four years.
The Fishermen Cooperative Society says it has “proof of the identities of 124 Pakistanis and 17 boats” in Indian custody. The Society believes there are another 100 unidentified Pakistani fishermen in Indian custody. Additionally, there are 199 Pakistani boats in Indian custody, and 350 Indian fishing boats in Pakistani custody.
A Pakistan-India judicial committee on Prisoners consisting of four retired judges from each side has been set up to recommend steps from humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners of the respective countries in each other’s jails.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.
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