Repatriation of Indian fishermen: NCHR pays thanks to the CEO of Legal Aid Society
May 11, 2023 11:26 PM
A campaign led by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), in collaboration with the Legal Aid Society, has resulted in the Pakistan government’s decision to repatriate, in the first instance, 199 Indian fishermen from Pakistani prisons today.
In a notification, issued by the Home Department, Government of Sindh on May 4, 2023, the Pakistan government ordered the repatriation of 199 Indian fishermen, whose national status had been confirmed by the Indian government. Today, in compliance to the above order, the Malir Jail commenced the arrangements for the release and shifting of the prisoners. Member of the National Commission of Human Rights Sindh, Ms Anis Haroon was present at the jail to oversee the arrangements and spoke to many of the jubilant returnees.
It was a moment of joy and relief for the Indian fishermen who had been incarcerated for years simply because they had accidently crossed the maritime border. As they gathered their belongings, the fishermen spoke in anticipation about meeting their loved ones; parents and children.
The decision to release the fishermen is a goodwill gesture by the Government of Pakistan, especially since it also plans to release a second batch of 200 Indian in June fishermen and the last batch of 100 prisoners in July this year.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday, Chairperson NCHR Rabiya Javeri Agha welcomed the decision and has appreciated the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their effort on this crucial human rights issue.
“This is a moment of relief and joy for the prisoners and their families. We thank the Government of Pakistan, the LAS, Haya Zahid and the Fishermen forums for all their support in this deeply heart-wrenching issue. We hope that the Indian Government will reciprocate and that the mechanism for mutual release of fishermen is streamlined and made efficacious” said Chairperson NCHR Rabiya Javeri Agha. The NCHR data shows that more than 650 Indian fishermen are currently in Pakistani jails and another 100+ Pakistani fishermen residing in Indian jails.
NCHR’s campaign was launched on May 1 and highlighted the ordeal of prisoners held in jails in India and Pakistani for accidently crossing the maritime borders. The campaign also emphasized on the implementation of national and international agreements applied on such prisoners, besides urging the governments of Pakistan and India to schedule talks to ensure the return of the detained fishermen and find out a permanent solution of the issue.
Data collected by the Commission shows that there are an estimated 1,155 foreign prisoners in Pakistan, with a significant proportion being foreign fishermen. NCHR’s campaign began with visits to Malir Prison, Karachi, and meetings with stakeholders including the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs.
The Commission has also developed a policy brief covering the background and details around the issues and recommending urgent policy and procedural measures to ensure repatriation of foreign fishermen to their country of origin on humanitarian grounds and for easing the strain on prison resources. The policy paper urges a long-term solution to the issue and urges the Pakistani government to appoint members for its vacant seats in the Joint Judicial Commission with India. The Commission also wrote to the Chairperson NHRC of India to help facilitate the return of Pakistanis fishermen from Indian jails.