ATTARI (Wagah border): A little after sunset on Sunday, 183 weary men trooped across the Wagah-Attari border and into India, carrying their belongings over their shoulders. They were all Indian prisoners in Pakistan, arrested for crossing the border. They were released by the Pakistan government on Saturday.
Of these, 179 are fisherfolk who accidentally crossed the international border while at sea. The remaining are civilians who crossed over by land. On Saturday, TOI had reported that the government of Sindh was releasing 179 fisherfolk and one civilian jailed in Karachi. An additional three civilians were also part of the group of Indian prisoners released on Sunday.
Of the civilian prisoners released, one was a Punjabi who worked in the Midde East. "I had some problem over there and wanted to return to India, so I fled the Middle East on a ship which reached Pakistan. I thought I could then cross over into India, but was arrested by Pakistani authorities,'' he said.
Wrapped in shawls as they crossed the border in the bitter cold, the fisherfolk, who are largely from Gujarat, spoke of how much they missed their families and how happy they were to be back in their own country. Many said they had spent about a year in prison.
Ashok, who was in prison for 15 months said, "We don't have any GPS devices. We have no idea where the border is in the sea".
Many of the fisherfolk released on Sunday, were concerned about their fellow fishermen who were still in jail. Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, a retired Pakistan Supreme Court judge and current chairman of Pakistan government's Committee for Welfare of Prisoners had told TOI on Friday that 276 Indian fishermen were still jailed in Pakistan after the release of these 179 fishermen.
The prisoners will spend the night in Amritsar. Officials from the Gujarat fisheries will then escort the fishermen from Amritsar to Gujarat.
Jatin Desai, joint secretary of Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy, instrumental in getting fisherfolk released from both sides of the border, feels that they should be sent back via sea, along with their boats. "Gujarat and Karachi are so close to each other, and yet Gujarati fishermen released in Karachi have to travel all the way to the Wagah border, and then from Amritsar to Gujarat. Many are from remote villages, and it will take even longer to reach,'' he says.
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw