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Plight of fishermen highlighted

KARACHI: Plight of fishermen of both Pakistan and India who are often arrested for violating limits of territorial waters of the two countries was highlighted at a press conference jointly addressed by representatives of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), National Labour Council and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) at the Karachi Press Club on Saturday.

Pakistani fishermen were often arrested by Indian coastguards at the Sir Creek which was a disputed territory between the two countries, said Karamat Ali of the National Labour Council. There was no demarcation in the sea, he said and asked when coastguards of the two countries could not determine from where the limits of their countries began and ended then how they could expect from poor fishermen to know about it.

He said the arrest of fishermen for the violation of territorial limits was in fact violation of their rights.
156 Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails for years and in Pakistani jails there are 439 fishermen awaiting release

He said the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was against the arrest of fishermen at sea. He said according to international rules fishermen could be warned when they unintentionally entered the territory of other countries. And if they were arrested the imprisonment should not be more than six months, he added.

He regretted that fishermen of both Pakistan and India languished in jails for years after their arrest.

“Their cases don’t even come to trial for months. Their embassy representative doesn’t even get counsellor access until after fishermen have served their sentences. Then after serving their sentences many are sent to jails until their country recognises them. Some languish there for over a year. Some even die during this time.”

The representatives of Piler and the other organisations pointed out that families of Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails suffer terribly in their absence.

PFF chairman Mohammad Ali Shah said that 27 fishermen from a fishing village in Sujawal were arrested at sea by Indian authorities leaving behind only womenfolk in the village.

“There is no one left to earn a living,” he said and urged the Sindh government to register and provide social security to all fishermen so that at least their families could be taken care of in their absence.

He also brought up the case of Rashid Ibrahim, who was arrested by Indian coastguards in 2014.

“There are some 156 Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails for years and in Pakistani jails there are 439 fishermen awaiting release.”

Habibuddin Junaidi, convener of Labour Solidarity Committee, also spoke on the occasion.

courtesy : dawn news

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