Attari, Punjab: Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for their release, 151 Indian fishermen freed from Pakistani prisons ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to New Delhi crossed over into Indian territory yesterday.
Pakistan yesterday released on humanitarian grounds the Indian prisoners, who were detained when they strayed into Pakistani territorial waters while fishing in the Arabian Sea.
After completing all formalities at Wagah on the Pakistan side, the fishermen started entering Indian territory at Attari, 35km from Amritsar. Most of them were lodged in Pakistani prisons for terms ranging from six months to over one year.
Most of the fishermen bowed as they stepped into Indian territory again.
“It is a sweet homecoming for us. We are thankful to Narendra Modi that we were released from jails there. My son’s wedding was postponed due to my arrest. Now, I will be back for the celebrations,” fisherman Jagdish, 55, from Gujarat said.
Most of the fishermen belong to coastal areas of Gujarat, Modi’s home state.
The release of the fishermen from Pakistani prisons in Karachi and Hyderabad (in Sindh province of Pakistan) came a day ahead of Sharif’s visit to New Delhi to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Modi.
The Sharif government ordered the release of 59 Indian fishermen from Malir Jail in Karachi city and another 92 from Nara jail in Hyderabad town.
Pakistan also said 57 fishing boats of these fishermen will be released.
The released fishermen were escorted by Border Security Force (BSF) troopers, who man the international boundary between India and Pakistan, to complete formalities.
“They will be taken to their respective destinations from here by buses,” a local official said here.
Modi praised Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which also freed five Indian fishermen, for the move.
“I welcome the step by Sri Lanka and Pakistan to release our fishermen. I welcome our fishermen brothers back home!” Modi said in a tweet.
Local activists in Pakistan gave a warm send-off to the Indian fishermen in Karachi as they boarded buses to go to Lahore.
“The sea does not have any boundary line. We were arrested by Pakistani authorities while fishing,” said Ismail from Gujarat.