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Pak judge prod to free Indian fishermen

Islamabad, Aug. 27: Pakistan’s top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has sought an explanation from the country’s home ministry on the continued detention of Indian fishermen who have completed their jail terms.

Chaudhry’s remarks came on a foreign ministry report about the steps being taken by the government to secure the release of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails and the plight of Indian fishermen who have not been released despite completing their sentences.

“There are 132 Pakistani fishermen in Indian custody and 582 Indian fishermen in Pakistani prisons. The fishermen incarcerated in both countries had been arrested for fishing illegally in Pakistani territorial waters,” the report said, adding the (Indian) fishermen would be deported as soon as their travel documents were received from the Indian High Commission.

“Pakistan lately released over 100 fishermen while India freed fewer people, which created a problem vis-à-vis early release of Indian fishermen by Pakistani authorities,” Chaudhry said while hearing a petition by the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum.

The petition sought to declare the arrest, prosecution, trial, conviction and continuing detention of the fishermen, including teenagers, improper and order their deportation to India because they had been identified as Indian nationals by the high commission.

The report said 456 of the 584 detained Indian fishermen had completed their sentences and their cases were with the Federal Review Board of the Supreme Court.

Since 2003, Pakistan has released 3,014 Indian prisoners, including 2,723 fishermen. India has freed 1,066 Pakistanis, including 512 fishermen.

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