KARACHI: India will hand over 52 Pakistani citizens, including 47 fishermen, to the Pakistani authorities at the Wagah border today (Tuesday). Among them, 13 hail from Thatta and 34 from Karachi’s coastal areas.
The others include civilians from Punjab and fishermen from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Meanwhile, 32 of the 47 fishermen from Sindh are Bengalis and the others are Sindhis.
While 52 families will have reason to rejoice, hundreds of others continue to pine for their loved ones. There are at least 100 other Pakistani fishermen who were either arrested from 1999 to 2008 or have been missing since then.
Ten-year-old Porho, son of Juman, belongs to Chohar Jamali of Thatta district. He was arrested by Indian authorities during fishing along with seven other men in 2008. Every month, his mother visits the office of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), an NGO working for the rights of fishermen in the country, in an effort to find out when her son will be released from jail. Unfortunately, the young fisher boy’s name is not included in the list of detainees who are to reach Pakistan today.
“You cannot imagine how the woman feels and how her voices trembles when she inquires about her son’s freedom,” said Sami Memon, spokesperson for the PFF.
Five other fishermen, who accidentally crossed into the Indian waters during the 1999 cyclone and were arrested by the Indian authorities, are languishing in Gujarat jail, awaiting their release.
Wasai, whose two sons, Siddique and Achar, are among these five men, has lost her eyesight during the long wait. “She is alive just to hear her sons’ voice,” said Zubaida, Siddique’s daughter.
According to Muhammad Ali Shah, the PFF chairperson, most of the men being released are those who were thrown into Indian territory by the cyclone in 1999. Shah welcomed the Indian government’s decision and expressed his hopes that the rest of the prisoners will also be freed soon.
The PFF chairman patted his organisation on the back and took credit for the release of the Pakistan fishermen. “We are the ones who gave the required attention to the case of detained fishermen, we fulfilled the legal procedures and organised rallies with civil society groups from Karachi to Islamabad in an effort to sensitise the government to take up the issue at official forums,” he said.
He also talked of 10 fishermen from Baba Bhit Island in Karachi, who went missing on January 17, 2009 during a fishing expedition. “There is no news of their whereabouts,” he said.
Meanwhile, Memon said that they have sent letters to all relevant departments to inform them that the process of releasing Pakistani fishermen is too lengthy and stressful, especially since their families live in remote coastal areas. They requested government officials concerned to hand over the freed fishermen to the PFF. The organisation will bear all expenditures of travel. The families are already in touch with the PFF so there should be no problem.
Three months ago, the PFF together with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, which made it possible to release 442 Indian fishermen.
The organisation claimed that they submitted another petition in the Supreme Court, after which the court ordered to release the remaining 142 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani jails.
The two welfare organisations issued a joint statement, demanding Pakistan and Indian governments to find out where the missing fishermen are and to free the remaining men still in Indian jails.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2010.
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