Releasing fishermen

The release of 147 Indian fishermen on Sunday 7th January is a very welcome development. Both India and Pakistan have over the years detained many hundreds, probably thousands, of fishermen that have crossed into one another’s territorial waters. The underlying assumption is that these men are potentially ‘spies’, engaged in intelligence work for their respective countries. A cursory examination of records in the public domain reveals that there are no convictions for espionage by detained fishermen of either country. Many are detained for years, their boats lie rotting and their families never knowing what exactly the fate of their breadwinners is. The boats they sail are simple, generally wooden and of artisanal construction. Beyond a compass most have no navigational aids and GPS trackers are virtually unknown in the poor fishing communities. Many have knowledge of navigation by sun and stars, but few will know precisely where they are on the face of the earth and will be unaware of having crossed an invisible line in the water.

In this instance, the travel expenses of the detained men is being borne by the Edhi Foundation which also gave gifts and cash to support them along the way. Their boats will not be going with them and they will be starting from scratch — no easy job when you have little to begin with. Another batch of 145 Indians had been released on December 28th 2017 but there are still 262 pointlessly detained in Malir jail. We would add our voice to that of non-governmental organisations in Pakistan as well as India for there to be a common-sense humanitarian solution to a problem that in reality threatens the security of neither India nor Pakistan. This is one problem at least that is capable of resolution by both parties, and an honourable addition to bilateral relations — a worthy New Year resolution. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2018.

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