Fishermen’s corpses fall victim to rivalry

January 26, 2014 - 5:08:43 am
KARACHI:  Not only is the tit-for-tat game between Pakistan and India to arrest fishermen continuing, it is also now taking an inhuman turn.

Earlier, authorities dragged their feet on exchanging fishermen arrested in either country; now, the bodies of these fishermen wait months to be returned to their respective homelands.

The death of Dhikha, an Indian fisherman who passed away in Landhi Jail about a month ago indicates the extent of the problem. Authorities in both countries have repeatedly failed to hand over the remains of fishermen quickly.

A spokesperson for the Edhi Foundation said Dhikha, 42, has been in their morgue since December 22, 2013. He was arrested along with 12 other fishermen thirty nautical miles inside the Pakistani border in November last year. He passed away in Landhi jail while awaiting trial.

“The families of the deceased fishermen in both countries are constantly in touch with us. We have written more than one dozen letters to Pakistani and Indian foreign ministries, high commissions and human rights organisations requesting a uniform policy so that bodies of deceased fishermen can be received by their loved ones as soon as possible?” said Muhammad Ali Shah, Secretary General of World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP), a representative body of the fishermen working in South Asian countries.

Shah referred to a recent case wherein the body of an Indian fisherman was dispatched to his home country only after the Indian government returned the remains of a Pakistani fisherman, Nawaz Jat, arrested in 1993.

Nawaz Jat, who belonged to Ibrahim Hyderi, Karachi, was arrested with 19 other crew members and sentenced to life imprisonment by an Indian court on multiple charges. After civil society organizations challenged the verdict, the apex court decreased his sentence to 15 years imprisonment.

While his family members anxiously counted down the days to August 2013, they received the news of his death in Gujrat Jail just months prior to his release. His body was returned to Pakistan two months after his demise.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Zohra Yusuf said that it was the moral responsibility of both countries to resolve this issue without allowing politics to hold sway.                                INTERNEWS