Pakistan releases Indian fishermen, Sri Lanka to follow

Pakistan releases Indian fishermen, Sri Lanka to follow

In a goodwill gesture, Pakistan today freed 151 Indian fishermen while Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the release of all detained Indian fishermen on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi.

Authorities released 59 Indian fishermen from Malir jail in Karachi and another 92 from Nara jail in Hyderabad in Sindh province.

The release comes ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to India to attend the swearing-in of Modi.

Syed Nazir Hussain, the superintendent of the Malir jail in Karachi, told PTI that the Indian prisoners were released on written directives of the interior and foreign ministries.

"Most of these prisoners are poor Indian fishermen who were arrested and brought here for trespassing into Pakistani territorial waters," he said.

The freed prisoners were taken in an air-conditioned bus from Karachi to Wagah border in Lahore from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities.

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan presidential spokesman said Rajapaksa has ordered the release of all Indian fishermen ahead of his visit to India tomorrow.

However, Sri Lankan fisheries ministry officials could not indicate the number of Indian fishermen currently in detention.

Pakistan had released around 337 Indian prisoners from jails in August last year. Later on Diwali also, 15 Indian fishermen were released as a goodwill gesture.

Pakistan maritime security forces frequently arrest Indian fishermen and seize their boats for fishing in its territorial waters.

Sri Lankan Navy also arrest Indian fishermen for alleged poaching in Lankan waters.

This is the second instance when Sri Lanka is releasing Indian fishermen.

The Tamil Nadu government had been demanding the release of all Indian fishermen before bilateral talks to resolve the fishermen issue could resume.

Sri Lanka had seized over 160 fishermen despite the agreements reached at talks held in Chennai in January.

The bilateral talks began in mid January to find a solution to the fishermen issue that often boils into a major political controversy in India.

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