Pakistani authorities on Saturday issued orders for the release and repatriation of 442 Indian fishermen in the wake of a case filed in the Supreme Court regarding their unlawful detention.
The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research had filed a petition in the apex court for the release of Indian fishermen detained in various jails even after they had completed their prison terms.
The fishermen were all arrested and convicted for illegally entering Pakistani waters.
Former law minister and rights activist Syed Iqbal Haider, who represented the petitioners in the apex court, said the Home Department of Sindh province today issued orders for the release and repatriation of 442 Indian fishermen, including two minors.
This was done due to the case taken up in the Supreme Court, he said. The case filed in the apex court had sought the release of 582 Indian fishermen detained in Pakistan.
The status of those whose release was not ordered by the Sindh government could not immediately be ascertained.
The 442 fishermen will be released in four batches between August 30 and September 6 and repatriated to India via the Wagah land border, Haider said.
During the last hearing of the case on August 26, the Supreme Court had asked the federal Interior Ministry to explain why 456 Indian fishermen were being held in several jails in Sindh even after they had completed their prison terms.
The Foreign Ministry told the apex court during the hearing that it had informed the Interior Ministry to release those Indian fishermen who had completed their sentences and whose nationality has been confirmed by the Indian High Commission.
The next hearing of the case is scheduled for September 14. Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research representative B M Kutty said his organisation and other rights groups had been striving for several years to persuade the governments of Pakistan and India to put an end to the frequent arrest and prolonged detention of fishermen for alleged violation of maritime borders.
"The organisations will continue their struggle till the two governments decide to find a way to end this practice on both sides," Kutty said.