Islamabad, July 21 IANS | 5 months ago

Pakistan has decided to release 57 fishing boats of 150 Indian fishermen who had been freed in May this year as a goodwill gesture, the foreign ministry said Monday.

Following the release of 150 Indian fishermen ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to New Delhi in May, Pakistan has now decided to release 57 fishing boats that were in its custody, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

A nine-member Indian delegation wrapped up a three-day visit to the port city of Karachi Sunday to inspect the boats and discuss ways for the release with officials of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA).

A follow-up visit of Indian officials would take place sometime in August to oversee the repairs before they are returned in mid-September after repair of the boats, Xinhua reported citing the foreign ministry.

Indian fishermen and boats are often apprehended by PMSA authorities when they violate Pakistan territorial waters, it said.

Usually the boats are not in seaworthy condition and are not returned.

However, following instructions from Prime Minister Sharif to return these boats, the PMSA made hectic efforts to ensure that the boats are returned to their rightful owners.

"The government of Pakistan views the issue of prisoners as a humanitarian one and continues to make efforts for their release as soon as their prison sentence has been completed," the foreign ministry said.

It called upon India to adhere to the Consular Agreement of 2008 and recommendations of the Judicial Committee on Prisoners to ensure that all those Pakistani prisoners in India who have completed their prison terms are released.

Earlier, the foreign ministry said currently 477 Pakistani prisoners (346 civil prisoners and 131 fishermen) still remain lodged in Indian jails.

Out of these, 22 civil prisoners have their completed sentences and were awaiting repatriation, a ministry statement said this month.

At present, 296 Indian nationals are detained in Pakistan, including 47 civil prisoners and 249 fishermen.

(Posted on 21-07-2014)

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