Back from Pakistan: Nationality verification delayed our release, say repatriated fishermen | punjab | top | Hindustan Times
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Back from Pakistan: Nationality verification delayed our release, say repatriated fishermen

The Pakistan government had released 144 Indian fishermen on December 29. As per Pakistan media reports, there had been 585 Indian fishermen in Pakistan jails and around 295 Indian fishermen are still there. 

punjab Updated: Jan 10, 2018 10:02 IST
Anil Sharma
Anil Sharma
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Indian fishermen on their arrival Amritsar on Tuesday.
Indian fishermen on their arrival Amritsar on Tuesday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

“We could have celebrated Diwali and New Year in our homes with our children, if the process of our nationality verification hadn’t taken a long time. The delay forced us to stay in a Pakistani jail for more than 9 months, although we were not criminals,” said Parveen Rathore, one of the 147 repatriated fishermen, on Tuesday, at the Red Cross Building here. He is one of the 147 Indian fishermen, who were released from Malir a Karachi jail on Sunday. They were repatriated to India through the Attari-Wagah border on Monday evening. They have been kept at the building of the Red Cross in Amritsar and will leave for Gujarat on Wednesday through a train from the Amritsar railway station.

Most of the fishermen feel that they had to languish in prison because their nationality verification took a long time. “The nationality must be verified within three months. In an age of information technology, it is not an impossible task to identify someone’s nationality within three months,” said Rathore.

Most of the fishermen don’t own boats and work on a salary at a salary of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month from their boat owners.

He said, “There are still more fishermen in Pakistani jails. They have been waiting for their release for more than a year, for they have not been verified so far. We were caught in March 2017 and released in January. More than 250 fishermen are still imprisoned there.”

Another fisherman, Hira, said, “As there is no fencing demarcation in the Arabian Sea, we totally rely on the GPRS system installed in boats used for fishing, but sometimes it too fails and we cross the border inadvertently.”

Saffy from Gujarat said, “Though volunteers of the Edhi Foundation celebrate Indian festivals among us in the prison, besides giving Rs 5,000 and a bagful of clothes and gifts to each of us during our repatriation, and jail authorities treat us in a courteous manner, but weather and drinking water there do not suit some of Indian prisoners. Two fishermen died in imprisonment. Some are also suffering with various deceases.”

Most of the fishermen don’t own boats and work on a salary at a salary of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month from their boat owners. “More than 500 boats are lying abandoned in Pakistan. Each boat costs more than ₹50 lakh, and the our government should also try to get them back,” said Hira.

The fishermen also expressed anger towards Indian marine security.Fisherman Firoz said, “There were six men in my boat while fishing in the sea and we were in the Indian territory as our GPS system told us, but the Pakistani coastal guards came into the Indian side and caught us in front of our Naval force and our guards didn’t stop the rivals to arrest us, despite our repeated requests. Our Naval force should also protect us when we are in the Indian side because we don’t go towards Pakistan maritime fence deliberately. Or there should be a treaty between the two countries to release the fishermen forthwith after identifying them on the spot.”

The Pakistan government had released 144 Indian fishermen on December 29. As per Pakistan media reports, there had been 585 Indian fishermen in Pakistan jails and around 295 Indian fishermen are still there.