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Peace Activists urge India and Pakistan to stop arresting each other’s fishermen in a tit-for-tat in the open seas

20 November 2015

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The Times of India

Activists urge India and Pakistan to release arrested fishermen
Bella Jaisinghani | TNN | Nov 20, 2015, 09.50 AM IST

MUMBAI: Indo-Pak activists have reminded the prime ministers of India and Pakistan to "fulfil their commitment" to release fishermen in custody along with their boats within fifteen days.

A meeting was held in Karachi to discuss the issue of detained fishermen on Thursday, and following this, the chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) - Mohammad Ali Shah, the general secretary of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) - Jatin Desai, as well as Shujauddin Qureshi of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and Mustafa Gurgez of PFF released a joint statement.

They said, "The spirit shown in Ufa was much appreciated by people of both the countries, but since then progress towards peace especially the release of fishermen has slowed down." PM Modi and Sharif had expressed a strong desire to release detained fishermen in the two countries, at Ufa on July 10.

Hundreds of fishermen are languishing in jails of both India and Pakistan. Over 300 Indian fishermen are reportedly imprisoned in Pakistani jails while 120 Pakistani fishermen are in India.

Desai informed delegates that the Indian government provides Rs 150 each day to each family of arrested fishermen. Mohammad Ali Shah said no such facility is available to Indian fishermen’s families. The statement demanded that Pakistan also provide financial support equal to minimum wages per month.

The families of arrested fishermen are also suffering because their boats are also confiscated by both countries. Activists said that earlier at the time of release, the Pakistan government used to release Indian boats from Karachi coast. This though has come down to a trickle as released fishermen are allowed to cross border from Wagah in Lahore.

Both India and Pakistan were urged to stop arresting each other’s fishermen in a tit-for-tat attempt in the open sea areas, and declare 50 nautical miles on each side, a total of 100 nautical miles, as a buffer zone where fishing be allowed for bonafide fishermen of both the countries.

Special licences or identity cards can be issued to such fishermen and in case of violation, a fine can be imposed.

The delegates decided to hold a South Asia level joint conference in 2016, preferably during the next SAARC summit which is scheduled in Islamabad next November.