The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered the interior ministry to justify the continued detention of Indian fishermen, who had completed their sentence, in different prisons in Sindh province.
The apex court was informed Thursday that 132 Pakistani fishermen were in Indian custody and 582 Indian fishermen were in Pakistani prisons as claimed by India in January, Dawn News reported on Friday.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday was hearing a petition by the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), five detained fishermen and 24 under-trial prisoners.
The foreign office said the fishermen would be deported as soon as their travel documents were received from the Indian High Commission.
The fishermen incarcerated in both countries had been arrested for fishing illegally in the waters of their neighbouring countries, a report submitted by the foreign office said.
The Indian fishermen were being held in the Malir jail in Karachi, Nara jail in Hyderabad and district jails in Badin and Naushahro Feroze, advocate Iqbal Haider said.
The Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 had affected prisoners' exchanges between the two countries.
Senior counsel Syed Iqbal Haider, representing the petitioners, said the verification of 454 fishermen, including two minors, had been done and the foreign ministry had indicated they should be released because consular process had been completed in their case.
The chief justice observed that although Pakistan had lately released over 100 fishermen, India had freed fewer people. This had created a problem vis-à-vis early release of Indian fishermen by Pakistani authorities.
The report said that 456 of the 584 detained Indian fishermen had completed their sentences and their cases were with the Federal Review Board of the Supreme Court.
Haider said that 582 Indian fishermen had been languishing in jails for three years despite having completed yearlong sentences awarded by a judicial magistrate in Karachi for violating the Foreigners Act of 1946 and illegally entering Pakistani waters.
Since 2003, Pakistan has released 3,014 Indian prisoners, including 2,723 fishermen, and India had freed 1,066 Pakistanis, including 512 fishermen. A number of Indian fishermen were released Dec 26 last year, the report said.