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India - Pakistan Relations: Fishermens Union & Peace Platform Appeal for release fishermen from jails and for a ’No Arrests Policy’

25 January 2016

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PRESS RELEASE

National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF)

Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD India)
C/O: F-10/12, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi – 110017
Phones: 011-26680883 / 09869077718 / 09345455122
Email: pipfpd.india[at]gmail.com | milango1955[at]gmail.com
January 25, 2016

To,
Mrs Sushma Swaraj,
Hon’ble Union Cabinet Minister
Ministry of External Affairs
South Block,
New Delhi- 110001

Dear Ma’am,

Sub: Seeking your urgent intervention to release fishermen from jails along with their boats

Greetings from Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) – India Chapter, National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) and fisher people of Gujarat & Diu. We are approaching you at this crucial juncture with the expectation that you will acknowledge and act with immediate effect on the issues of great concern to the fisher people.

The issue of fishworkers arrests between India and Pakistan by the Maritime Security Agency (MSA) of Pakistan and the Indian Coast Guard dates back to several decades. However, the intensity or the number of people arrested has mostly been on the rise.

Large number of Indian and Pakistani fishermen have been in jails in Pakistan and India since more than a year whereas the maximum sentence for them is six months. We urge you to take immediate action for their release.

We understand and acknowledge that as per the provisions of the Consular agreement, the lists of prisoners including civilian prisoners and fishermen have been exchanged on January 1, 2016 and we hope immediate action will be taken by you in order to facilitate the release of Indian fishermen and take significant steps to release fishermen from Pakistan who are languishing in jails in India.

For years, groups including Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD), National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and other citizens groups have been working relentlessly towards a permanent settlement to the issue of arrests and ‘cross-border fishing’. However, both governments continue to treat the issue as a hostage to settle other scores.

There is an urgent need to take forward the demand for a “No Arrest Policy” which would be a significant Confidence Building Measure. We demand that Government of India unilaterally and unconditionally declare ‘No Arrest Policy’ of Pakistani fishermen and boats, so as to prompt a reciprocal action from Pakistan Government on this issue.

As per the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India press release on the website[1], Pakistan released 163 Indian fishermen in August last year and India released 16 Pakistani prisoners including nine fishermen following the exchange of the prisoners list.

According to media reports in Pakistan, India released three Pakistani prisoners in December after they completed their respective jail terms.

We demand that the interim recommendations of the India- Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, Lahore, April 30, 2013 be implemented, wherein it was recommended that fishermen be repatriated by sea along with their boats. The work done by the committee was highly appreciated by the governments of both countries but it is disappointing to see that there has been no implementation of this.

With rising concerns over the relations between the two countries and in an environment where there have been many who have been in opposition to the dialogue processes with Pakistan, we strongly believe that there is a need for positive dialogue and for our governments to act on the issues faced by the citizens to strengthen the political and people-to-people relations between India and Pakistan.

We hope for a positive response and immediate action.

Yours Sincerely,

M.Ilango, Chairperson, NFF
Jatin Desai, Secretary, PIPFPD