KARACHI, Oct 1: Relatives of a Pakistani fisherman, Nawaz Ali Mohammad, who died in India last month, gathered at the cargo section of the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport to receive his remains that arrived in the flight PK 275 on Monday afternoon.
At the airport, there was his 13-year-old son Abdul Ghani, too young to take family responsibility on his young shoulders, and his aging asthmatic father Ali Mohammad, too old to bear the burden of his young son’s body.
There were the deceased’s brother, Hussain Mohammad, cousins, uncles and friends waiting outside the cargo section gates while the airport officials cleared the body to be handed over to them.
The late fisherman’s son, Abdul Ghani, was only a month old when a cyclone in 1999 pushed their fishing trawler into Indian waters. On board were their other relatives — Nawaz’s uncle Usman and Zaman and his brother-in-law, also named Usman.
All were arrested at sea by Indian coastguards, but their arrest was confirmed only after 2010 by the Indian government and they are still languishing in Indian jails along with 24 other Pakistani fishermen there.
There has been little correspondence between the families here and the prisoners in Indian jails during this period.
“We do not know exactly what happened to Nawaz. All we were told was that he expired on Sept 8. The last letter we received from India was on Sept 1, but we still have not been able to understand it because it is written in the Gujarati language, which we are unable to read or understand,” said the deceased fisherman’s maternal uncle Mohammad Saleh.
“All of the few letters that we received from that place were not written by our people, but were penned by someone else to whom they had supposedly dictated the words. The letters do not say much as all such correspondence is censored anyway,” he added.
Listening to all that was being said, Nawaz Ali Mohammad’s young son, Abdul Ghani, broke down into tears.
“He has no memory of his father, but has heard so much about him while growing up that he was hoping to see him one day. But it wasn’t to be,” said the relative.
Next to him stood the aging father, who could not say much as he got out of breadth when he tried. “He suffers from asthma,” said Mohammad Saleh. “We all live in very poor conditions in Rehri Goth, although the family originally hailed from Keti Bandar. We urged them to move in with us when there was no breadwinner left in their home in 1999, when the incident occurred,” he said.
“We want to educate young Abdul Ghani so that he is able to earn for his family but we are very poor and live hand to mouth most of the time so we are sending him to an Islamic seminary. We do not want him to become a fisherman like his father,” he added.
Meanwhile, Fishermen’s Cooperative Society (FCS) manager Mohammad Rafiq Suleiman said that they were only informed by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad that the fisherman had died due to some illness.
“He was under treatment at the Civil Hospital in Gujarat, where he eventually passed away. It was through the FCS platform that we, through the Sindh government and the federal government’s cooperation, managed to have his remains brought back here to Karachi after 22 days of his death. But we hope to bring back the other 24 Pakistani fishermen though our persistent efforts,” he said.
The FCS gave Rs20,000 cash to Nawaz Ali Mohammad’s son and his father for burial arrangements. There are no plans for carrying out a post-mortem, it is said.
“If it turns out that the fisherman had an insurance policy in his name as it is customary for trawler owners to get one for their fishermen, his family will receive an additional Rs300,000,” FCS spokesman Salahuddin informed Dawn.
The body reached Karachi three days after the Indian government released 46 Pakistani fishermen.