KARACHI: Seated on some chairs placed for them on the footpath outside the Edhi Foundation’s centre at Kharadar, the family members of the six Pakistani fishermen reaching Karachi after being handed over to authorities at Wagah last month, had their eyes fixed on the road on Sunday. Many of them carried plastic bags full of rose petals, many carried garlands.
The returning fishermen, all hailing from Keti Bandar in Thatta, were Ali Hassan, Ali Akbar, Ali Nawaz, Wazir Ali, Didar Ali and Hamza Ali.
All of them were arrested at Sir Creek in December of 2016. Their families waiting to receive them in Karachi said that there were some five fishing boats that were taken away by the Indian coast guard along with all the 26 men on them. Over the years, 20 of them have returned. And the remaining six returned on Sunday.
Shaukat Ali, brother of Hamza Ali, who returned this time, told Dawn that he was also one of the men arrested with the others in 2016. “I myself only returned three months ago. When I got my release orders, I felt very sad to learn that my brother had not got his. I didn’t want to leave him behind in India but I had no other choice,” said Shaukat, who looked relieved to know that his brother was among the ones returning this time.
The aged Mohammad Ramzan had come to receive his paternal grandson Ali Akbar and his maternal grandson Ali Nawaz. As many as nine earning members of his family had been arrested along with the same batch picked up in 2016. All except the two grandsons had returned so far. So he was also relieved to have them back.
Didar Hussain, another one of the fishermen returning, was going to meet his son Rizwan for the first time. His wife was three-month pregnant when he was arrested.
“During this while I became father to a son and I also lost my own father,” Didar told Dawn. He also said that he won’t be returning to Keti Bandar as his family has moved to Rehri Goth in Karachi now after his father’s passing.
The youngest of the returning fishermen was 19-year-old Wazir Ali. He was just 14 when he was caught. His father Sher Ali had also come to Karachi to receive him. While he was away, his younger brother also fell ill and died. His father when hugging him on his return also carried the burden of informing him about that loss.
All the Pakistani fishermen had terrible stories to tell of being beaten, of being kept hungry for up to four days in the Indian jails.
Besides their families, the returning fishermen were also received by Ahmed Edhi of the Edhi Foundation, who brought them to Karachi and also handed each of the men cash envelopes of Rs5,000.
Shaukat Hussain of the Fishermen Cooperative Society also handed them cash envelopes of Rs20,000 each.
Saeed Baloch of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) was also present. The PFF has been taking care of the fishermen’s families in their absence, providing them with food rations while their earning members are away from home.
There are still 116 Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails after the return of these fishermen.
Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2022