As part of goodwill gesture, the Nawaz Sharif government has decided to release 57 fishing boats of 150 Indian fishermen, the foreign ministry said in Islamabad on Monday.
The fishermen were released in May. A 9-member Indian delegation from the Indian High Commission visited Karachi over the weekend to inspect the boats and discuss modalities for the release of the vessels with officials of the Maritime Security Agency (MSA).
Earlier, when Indian fishermen were released, they departed on their boats and escorted out of Pakistani waters. However, over the past five years or so, this practice was discontinued and the fishermen would be sent overland via the Wagah border, and most of them lost possession of the boats.
Many of the boats have rotted over the years and are not in sea-worthy condition, confirmed a member of the Pakistan Fisher folk Forum, an NGO that looks after fishermen rights. He said most of them are kept outside Karachi Port. The Indian High Commission officials insisted given the boats were in the custody of the Maritime Security Agency, it was the responsibility of the agency to ensure that the boats were in good condition. In this regard, a follow up visit of Indian officials would take place in August to oversee the repairs before they are returned in September.