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Freed Indian fishermen exit a Pakistani jail before boarding a bus in Karachi on April 14, 2011.—AFP/File

KARACHI: Pakistan on Thursday released 26 Indian fishermen held in prison for more than two years for violating territorial waters, officials said.

The release, described as a “goodwill gesture”, comes days after President Asif Ali Zardari met Indian PM Manmohan Singh for lunch in New Delhi on the first visit by a Pakistani head of state to their arch-rivals in seven years.

“We have released 26 Indian fishermen from our jail on the instructions of the government,” Nazeer Husain Shah, superintendent of the Malir district prison in Karachi told AFP.

The neighbours frequently arrest each other's fishermen on charges of violating territorial waters.

Officials say at least 450 Indian fishermen are still in Pakistani jails, while India has over 150 Pakistani fishermen in its prisons.

Shazia Marri, the information minister for Sindh province, said: “They have been released as a goodwill gesture.”

Jail officials handed gifts to the Indians before boarding them onto a bus that will take them to the eastern city of Lahore, where they will be handed over to the authorities across the border.

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