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Resume the Peace Process / Free detained fishermen

Pakistan - India Peace Activists Push for Peace

A compilation of news reports from Pakistani Press

by sacw.net, 6 July 2009

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Contents:

  1. Activists want S. Asia peace process revived
  2. Pakistan, India urged to free detained fishermen
  3. Release of 700 fishermen in India, Pak demanded
  4. Pak, India must put visible demarcation in Arabian Sea
  5. Families distressed as fishermen languish in Indian jails
  6. News Clippings of reports on "Promoting Peace in South Asia and Remembering Didi Nirmala Deshpande"

Dawn, 4 July, 2009

Karachi: Activists want S. Asia peace process revived
- by Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, July 3: A group of Indian human rights activists and journalists, currently on a visit to Pakistan, have said that the people of the subcontinent want peace and friendship, but certain vested interests always try to sabotage peace moves. They stressed the need for restoration of the peace process between the two countries which came to a halt following the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The members of the Indian delegation, comprising Sandeep Pandey, scientist-turned-human rights activist from Lucknow; Kavita Srivastava, human rights activist from Rajasthan; and Jatin Desai, senior journalist from Mumbai, were speaking at a reception hosted by the Karachi Press Club here on Friday.

Mr Shaukat, who is a journalist from Hyderabad Deccan, joined the Indian delegation in Karachi.

Mr Desai said that if the Composite Dialogue process, under which four rounds of talks on issues like Kashmir, Siachen, and detained fishermen were held, had not stalled, it would have had certainly gone a long way towards finding a solution to the long-standing problems casting a shadow on the ties between the two countries.

However, he hoped that during the upcoming Non-Aligned Movement summit in Egypt, the leaders of Pakistan and India would not restrict themselves to the issue of terrorism, but would take up all issues concerning the peoples of the two countries. “They can at least make progress on the issue of detained Pakistani and Indian fishermen to reduce their miseries and problems,” he said.

He urged the Indian government to withdraw its travel advisory against Pakistan.

Ms Srivastava criticised the Indian media for creating ‘war hysteria’ after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

She appreciated the role of the Pakistani media for maintaining objectivity in reporting. She said that it was high time for the civil society of the two countries to take the peace process as a challenge and give it a top priority to increase pressure on the governments to revive it.

Mr Shaukat said that the basic issue was the removal of the ‘walls of hatred’ between the two countries.

In this regard, he said, journalists could play an important role by maintaining objectivity in their work.

He welcomed the move for setting up a joint forum of Pakistani and Indian journalists for the promotion of peace between the two countries.

Earlier, KPC President Imtiaz Faran and Secretary A.H. Khanzada welcomed the guests and presented them Ajraks and KPC brochures.

Dawn, 6 July, 2009

Karachi: Pakistan, India urged to free detained fishermen
- by Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, July 5: The South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication on Sunday urged the governments of Pakistan and India to release and repatriate all fishermen being kept in their prisons.

A three-member delegation of the SAAPE, currently visiting the country, said this while speaking at a press conference held here at the Karachi Press Club on Sunday.

Representatives of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and some other civil society organisations were also present.

They maintained that the marine boundaries between the two neighbouring countries were not well-defined so fishermen from one country often strayed into the territorial waters of the other by mistake, which resulted in their arrest by the maritime security agencies.

The fishermen remained in prisons for years while their boats and fishing trawlers were confiscated, they added.

They said that at present some 110 Pakistani fishermen were kept in Indian prisons while some 550 Indian fishermen had been languishing in Pakistani jails. In the past two decades, at least 18 Pakistani fishermen died in Indian jails while eight Indian fishermen died while in captivity in Pakistani jails, they said.

They criticised the procedure being followed by the two governments for the release of the fishermen, as according to the procedure if India releases 100 fishermen, Pakistan would also release the same number of fishermen and not more.

The delegates demanded that all fishermen be released immediately and their boats be returned to them while the governments should pay them compensation for their seized fish catch.

They demanded that in future no fishermen should be arrested for straying into the waters of the neighbouring country and when caught they should be released after being given a warning.

Indian delegates Kavita Srivastava, Dr Sandeep Pandey and Jatin Desai spoke while Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum chief Mohammad Ali Shah, Iqbal Haider of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research also spoke.

Daily Times, July 06, 2009

Release of 700 fishermen in India, Pak demanded

KARACHI: Like the 1971 prisoners of war, families of fishermen on both sides of the Indo-Pak border are waiting for the release of their loved ones for the last several decades while tension between the rival nuclear countries have tightened diplomatic relations. Data compiled by peace activists from both countries reveal that 700 fishermen from India and Pakistan (576 Indian fishermen and 123 Pakistani fishermen) are in jails on both sides of the border and await their return home. Peace activists from India and Pakistan have demanded that both governments immediately release the 700 detained fishermen as well as asked both the countries to accelerate the peace process and immediately resolve the controversial Sir Creek issue by demarcating boundaries. “Long term tension between both the countries would not be resolved until the controversy of Sir Creek is not resolved. Therefore, both countries must accelerate the peace process for the betterment of the region,” said Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research’s (PILER) Karamat Ali. Addressing a press conference over the detained fishermen issue at Karachi Press Club on Sunday with an Indian delegation, Ali said that for peace in South Asia, peace between India and Pakistan is necessary. Kavita Shrivastva, a human rights activist from the Indian state of Rajasthan said that the issue of fishermen is serious as due to tension between both the countries, the poor fishermen and their families suffer. amar guriro

The Nation, July 6, 2009

Pak, India must put visible demarcation in Arabian Sea
- by Shafi Baloch

KARACHI - The Pakistani and Indian civil society have announced to launch a campaign to release the detained fishermen of India and Pakistan.
Addressing the Press conference at Karachi Press Club on Sunday, representatives of both the counties said that millions of fishermen of both India and Pakistan had been victimised by the authorities of both the countries due to their prolong and unsettled disputes.

The Press conference was addressed by Karamat Ali of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Mohamad Ali Shah of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Syed Iqbal Haider of Human Rights Council of Pakistan (HRCP), Kavita Srivastave of Peoples Union of India, Dr Sandeep Pandey, a human rights activist in India, Jatin Desai, an activist of fishermen rights in India, and others. “On behalf of South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), they have decided to take up the issue of detained fishermen by launching a regional-level campaign. The fishermen of both the countries are frequently attacked, arrested and even killed by naval forces of both the countries and their fishing boats are confiscated,” they added.

They said that the poor fishermen were put in prisons for years in the charges of crossing the water zones of their respective countries, and they were also not produced in any court of law for years.

They further said that delay in Sir Creek border issue were creating miseries for fishermen, since there was no visible demarcation in the sea water between India and Pakistan. Therefore, the fishermen of both the countries easily stray into the water zones of each other’s country due to severe weather.

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The News, June 20, 2009

Families distressed as fishermen languish in Indian jails

by Jan Khaskheli

Karachi

Haji Yousuf Katiar, 80, is disappointed because the government authorities did not pay heed to his request to help get his two sons released. His two sons – the only bread-winners of his family – are languishing in an Indian prison for the last few months along with 22 others. Katiar hails from Atharki, a coastal village (in Thatta) that has lost several men in disasters and boat accidents. At present, 24 fishermen of the village are languishing in Indian jails.

The depressed father is angry at the officials representing the government-run Fishermen Cooperative Society (FCS), which, according to him, has done nothing to support the families back home in the absence of their bread-winners.

FCS is a community welfare body that should have announced support to the people in difficult times, but failed to do so, the affected families said. The people of coastal Thatta are vulnerable to cyclones, disasters and floods. They are also victims of Indian border security forces that arrest them while they are engaged in fishing in the open waters, and also confiscate their vessels and fishing tools.

The plight of Jumo Katiar, Mohammed, Abdul Ghani and others like them are similar as the old men are unable to support their families.

The locality, with a population of 7,000, has been deprived of basic facilities. Given the plight of these families, it seems that these people are neither on the agenda of the authorities, nor do they have the support of the human rights groups.

Women, mostly wives, mothers, sisters and children of the detained people appeared distressed while narrating their ordeal, clearly waiting to receive the men of their families. The mothers seemed anxious about their daughters, as they believe their fathers’ presence is essential to arrange their marriages.

The women also said they were nearly starving. Children are unable to go to schools and in case of health problems; they do not know where to go for help. According to the elders, they have several offices and residences of legislators as well as the local influential people for help but realised that the votes they cast are useless because no one has taken note of their complaints.

However, the credit goes to the area’s youth who collected donations at the local level so that the village school would become functional. The latter has 70 children enrolled are being taught by one teacher. They are optimistic about the future generation. Some elders of the locality said that they have lost 12 people who were murdered by the neighbouring country’s border forces while they were out fishing in the open sea.

According to the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), there are 150 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails while around 500 Indian fishermen are languishing in Pakistani jails. PFF activist Gulab Shah said that seven months ago, the 24 fishermen belonging to Atharki village were caught from Kajir Creek along with three vessels. The creek from where these people were caught comes under Pakistani territory.

PFF said it has launched an effective campaign to raise its voice in the parliament so that both countries can make the issue of detained fishermen a part of their agenda during future dialogue. The PFF claimed it has the support of international fishermen organisations, local human rights and civil society organisations, and will arrange seminars and protests in the federal capital of Islamabad. They urged the need to find a permanent solution for controversial sea territory so that the fishermen can earn a living in peace.

Promoting Peace in South Asia and Remembering Didi Nirmala Deshpande: News Clippings
A public event held in Karachi, on 2nd of July 2009 (News reports in English and French); A PDF file, 920k