Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday announced that it will release 360 Indian prisoners, mostly fishermen, this month in four phases, as a “goodwill gesture” amidst tensions between the two countries after the Pulwama terror attack.
Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said the process of releasing the Indian fishermen will start on April 8 when 100 prisoners will be released. In the second phase on April 5, another 100 will be released. In the third phase on April 22, another 100 will be released and in the fourth and last phase on April 29, the remaining 60 prisoners will be released.
“We are doing it as goodwill gesture and hope that India will reciprocate it,” Faisal said while addressing his weekly briefing to the media in Islamabad.
The spokesperson said currently there are 347 Pakistani prisoners in India and 537 Indian prisoners in Pakistan.
“Pakistan will release 360 Indian prisoners, of which 355 are fishermen and 5 are civilians,” he said.
The fishermen will be taken from Karachi to Lahore and handed over to Indian officials at the Wagah border.
Anwar Kazmi, a spokesman of Edhi welfare organisation, which helps the released fishermen with clothes and food, told PTI from Karachi that the process of releasing the fishermen will start from Sunday.
“First a group of 100 fishermen will be taken from Karachi to Lahore on Allama Iqbal Express on Sunday,” he said.
They are likely to be handed over to India on Monday at Wagah. They spent months and sometimes years before repatriated.
Pakistan and India frequently arrest fishermen as there is no clear demarcation of the maritime border in the Arabian Sea and these fishermen do not have boats equipped with the technology to know their precise location.
Owing to lengthy and slow bureaucratic and legal procedures, the fishermen usually remain in jail for several months and sometimes years.
Pakistan’s announcement to release the fishermen came amidst escalating tensions between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.
India launched a counter-terror operation against a JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.