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Indian fishermen to be freed

December 26, 2004

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ISLAMABAD, Dec 25: Pakistan has decided to release all the detained Indian fishermen who strayed into its territorial waters but not their boats, sources told Dawn on Saturday.

Pakistan is expected to formally convey this decision to the Indian government at the foreign-secretary level talks starting here on Monday.

"Consular access to 266 Indian fishermen detained in various jails in Sindh has been completed and they will be released soon via the Wagah border," the sources said, adding that the remaining fishermen would also be released after the due process.

Pakistan's maritime security agency has arrested some 900 Indian fishermen for intrusion in Pakistani territorial waters in the last two to three months. During this period only 100 Pakistani fishermen were detained by the Indian authorities on the same charge.

Officials here maintain that confiscating boats of arrested fishermen would serve as a deterrent for the main Indian contractors and owners of the boats who force the fishermen to stray into the rich Pakistani waters.

Indian fishermen's delegation was also informed of the Pakistani decision to confiscate boats at a recent meeting in Karachi. However, the Indian delegation was unhappy with the decision as it seemed more interested in the release of their boats, the sources claimed.

One fishing boat costs slightly over a million rupees, it is learnt.