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Families of 26 Pakistani fishermen jailed in India’s Gujarat await miracle

THATTA: Bearing the brunt of their relatives’ incarceration in a Gujarat jail in India, some sort of miracle is being awaited by the starving families of 26 fishermen who were escorted by Indian coastguards away from Pakistan’s territorial waters along the Runn of Kutch.

We found them at the isolated Ramzan Parehri village on the Arabian Sea, some 110 kilometres away from Thatta. It was Friday, and our fact-finding mission was there to record their misery. Though we left Thatta in the early morning so that we could cross the oceanic trench in a timely manner, by the time we got there the tide had already receded. We had to wait two hours further before we could proceed onwards and meet the desperate residents of the village.

There is no word other than desperation to use. Most of the women and children at the village were barefoot and wore tattered clothes; how they were surviving in their thatched huts as freezing wind blew off the waters during the ongoing cold spell was a wonder.

One of the only two men left behind to look after the families, Jumu Parehri, an old man, emerged to ask who we were and what we were doing there. At some point in time, his leg had been amputated, and he was hobbling on crutches.

When we explained our reasons for being there, he invited us into one of the huts and offered the customary welcome by unfolding an embroidered Sindhi rilli so that we could sit comfortably on the floor.

“No one except for the omnipotent God has so far looked after us,” he said, talking about the village residents’ predicament since the incident on Dec 21 when, violating Pakistan’s territorial waters, Indian coastguards took away at gunpoint five Pakistani fishing boats. There were 26 fishermen on board, as well as the crew. Their catch, fishing nets and other belongings were also towed away to India.

In tears, the disabled man told us that only two men were left behind, himself an octogenarian, the other an ailing leader of the Parehri and Maachi tribes. They are the only ones responsible for the sustenance and solace of about 40 souls residing in the three to four huts here. A third fisherman of the village, Soomar, died on Jan 13 — they say it was because of grief over the detention of his 16-year-old son, Deedar, and his ordeal in the Indian jail. Jumu said that of the 26 captives, nine are his sons, nephews, sons-in-law or other close relatives. The rest are also closely related to each other.

In a whisper, he added: “India and Pakistan have never been in too close a relationship but recently both countries have also exchanged imprisoned fishermen from their jails; I do not understand why the federal and provincial governments, or stakeholders from the private and public sectors, or even NGOs and civil society, are quiet on the issue [of these 26 men].”

During our visit there, more than a dozen women and children emerged from their huts holding photographs of their relatives incarcerated in the Indian jail. The nine fishermen belonging to one family of Ramzan Parehri village include Ramzan, Juman, Hasan, Ramzan¸ Ibraheem, Rustam, Asghar Ali, Nawaz Ali and Bux Ali. The remaining are also related to each other.

Zulekha, wife of Bux Ali, one of the men under detention in the neighbouring country, rued that none of the country’s elected representatives, social workers or political workers had so for extended any help to these families. Ilyas Samo, a local journalist, and Aziz Lashari, a social worker who later arrived here from the tehsil headquarters at Ketibandar, corroborated that no government functionary had arrived in the village; any hopes these families have are centred on the provincial fisheries minister, Mohammad Ali Malkani, who also belongs to the coastline region. The local people told Dawn that for these families the only was of staving off starvation was to unearth crabs by digging holes in the mud. They called upon the federal and provincial governments to come to the rescue by getting the fishermen released from Indian prisons.

courtesy : dawn news



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