Karachi/Colombo: In a goodwill gesture, Pakistan yesterday freed 151 Indian fishermen while Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the release of all detained Indian fishermen on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi.

A sand art of Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif by Sudarsan Patnaik at Puri beach. Pic/PTI
A sand art of Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif by Sudarsan Patnaik at Puri beach. Pic/PTI

Authorities released 59 Indian fishermen from Malir jail in Karachi and another 92 from Nara jail in Hyderabad in Sindh province. The release comes ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India to attend the swearing-in of Modi. Syed Nazir Hussain, the superintendent of the Malir jail in Karachi, said that the Indian prisoners were released on written directives of the interior and foreign ministries.

“Most of these prisoners are poor Indian fishermen who were arrested and brought here for trespassing into Pakistani territorial waters,” he said. The freed prisoners were taken in an air-conditioned bus from Karachi to Wagah border in Lahore from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities.

Sri Lanka follows suit
A Sri Lankan presidential spokesman said Rajapaksa has ordered the release of all Indian fishermen ahead of his visit to India today. However, Sri Lankan fisheries ministry officials could not indicate the number of Indian fishermen currently in detention.

Pakistan had released around 337 Indian prisoners from jails in August last year, and later on Diwali, 15 more were released. Pakistan maritime security and Lankan Navy frequently arrest Indian fishermen and seize their boats for fishing in its territorial waters. Sri Lanka had seized over 160 fishermen despite the agreements reached at talks in Chennai in January.