It was an emotional homecoming for the six sailors of the Egyptian cargo vessel MV Suez, who were held captive by Somali pirates for 10 months, after they reunited with their families at the Delhi airport on Friday.
Anxious relatives of the sailors had to waited for hours, with their parents, wives and children holding garlands and posters that said 'Thank You, Burney Uncle', in a reference to the Pakistani human rights activist who facilitated the release.
The long wait ended at a few minutes before 11am as the sailors emerged from the airport's Terminal 3, even as the Emirates flight had touched down at 9.30am.
Recalling the horror at the hijacked vessel, NK Sharma, one of the sailors, said — "We were kept in darkness, with no food or water and surrounded by arm carrying pirates."
"We were given limited food like rice, boiled potatoes and spaghetti and water," said Prashant Cauhan, another sailor. "The hijackers would regularly beat us up with anything they could lay their hands on."
"We are relieved that their ordeal has ended. We appreciate the timely help extended to them and sailors of other countries, by the Pakistani navy," said external affairs minister SM Krishna.
"Let us not forget that the ordeal of over five hundred sailors from across the world, who are still in captivity of the pirates, is not yet over," he said.
"The scourge of piracy requires a well coordinated response by all entities, especially navies of more than two dozen nations that provide security to sea faring vessels in piracy infested waters."
The 22-member multi-national crew, who were freed last week after ransom was paid to the Somali pirates, were brought to Karachi on Thursday by Pakistan Navy warship PNS Zulfiqar.
PNS Zulfiqar had picked up sailors after Suez had sank off the coast of Oman.