Indian fishermen, Pakistani prison, release, journey home, cross-border, reunion, Edhi Foundation, border handover, Federal Investigative Agency

A total of 198 Indian fishermen who were released from the District Prison Malir embarked on their journey back home to Lahore. Departing from the Cantonment Railway Station in Karachi, the fishermen boarded the Allama Iqbal Express on Thursday evening.

Unfortunately, the original number of released fishermen was meant to be 200, but two individuals had tragically passed away earlier. The deceased fishermen were identified as Mohammad Zulfiqar, who died on May 6, and Soma Deva, who passed away on May 9. Both had been suffering from prolonged illnesses. Their bodies are currently being held at the Edhi Foundation mortuary until arrangements are made to transport them back to India.

Sagar Samji, Soma's nephew, shared that he was also arrested at sea about four-and-a-half years ago. A year later, his uncle was apprehended in a similar manner and subsequently detained in the Malir jail.

Sagar emotionally expressed, "He [Soma] was sick, and the jail authorities sent him to the hospital. Although he returned shortly, he didn't appear to be in good health. When his condition worsened, he was taken to the hospital again, where he passed away." The grief-stricken nephew further added, "Now I dread going home alone and having to break the devastating news to my aunt."

Regarding Zulfiquar, it was reported that he died of a severe heart attack. Among the other fishermen preparing to board the train in Karachi, some appeared to be unwell. Meero Misri, with his right arm in a sling, leaned heavily on an orthopedic walking stick. He revealed, "I had a stroke in jail," explaining that he had been incarcerated for about three-and-a-half years. Misri sadly shared his concern about burdening his wife, Navratna, who had single-handedly managed their household and cared for their four young children during his absence. He said, "Now that I'm returning, I fear becoming an additional burden for her as I am unable to work in my current condition."

Nevertheless, most of the fishermen expressed joy and anticipation for their homecoming. Ram Singh, who had been imprisoned for the past seven years, enthusiastically exclaimed, "I have my parents, wife, and two boys eagerly awaiting my return home." He admitted that what he missed the most, even more than his family, was home-cooked meals. He added with a smile, "Both my mother and wife are excellent cooks, but you know what? I'm an even better cook than them. So I've missed catching fish and cooking it."

When asked about their opinion on the Allama Iqbal Express and trains in India, Irfan Qasim, a Muslim Indian fisherman, replied, "I have traveled on the Al Hazrat train in India that takes you to Ajmer Sharif. It is much nicer than this train." He graciously added, "Still, I am grateful for your hospitality."

According to Saeed Baloch, General Secretary of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, the first batch of released fishermen consists of 198 individuals, with subsequent batches including 200 and approximately 100 fishermen, respectively.

Qazi Khizar, Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, expressed his belief that countries around the world maintain friendly borders. However, in the case of Pakistan and India, anyone accidentally crossing over is immediately arrested. He stated, "We are neighbors with such a vast border, yet things remain this way. We cannot choose our neighbors. It is high time we strive to foster a more amicable relationship," he urged.

Khizar pondered, "If we can open Kartarpur, why can't we open our seas to each other? Such a step would alleviate the suffering of these poor fishermen." He emphasized the consequences of prolonged detainment, saying, "Consider this: They have spent five years, even seven years in jail. Their children have grown up without them, and they have missed witnessing their growth."

Zahid Ibrahim Bhatti, administrator of the Fishermen Cooperative Society in Sindh, highlighted the plight of around 200 Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails. He expressed hope that they, too, would soon be released following the repatriation of numerous Indian fishermen. Bhatti passionately asserted, "These fishermen are innocent individuals. They are impoverished and certainly do not deserve imprisonment for unintentionally crossing into a neighboring country. After all, there is no line in the sea demarcating a border. I appeal to the governments of both Pakistan and India to devise a joint leniency policy for these poor innocent people instead of subjecting them to years of confinement."

In a heartwarming gesture, Faisal Edhi distributed generous gifts to the children of the released fishermen. Accompanied by Rs5,000 in cash, big red sacks filled with presents were handed out, bringing smiles to the faces of these young ones. Faisal expressed immense happiness, stating, "They are incredibly hardworking individuals. Workers and laborers like them should never be confined behind bars, as it deprives them of caring for their families who depend on their earnings."

The Edhi Foundation facilitated the train journey for the Indian fishermen as they made their way to Lahore. Upon arrival, the fishermen will be transferred to the Federal Investigative Agency, which will oversee their handover at the Wagah border, where they will be reunited with Indian authorities.

Written By Web Desk

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