Coming in the backdrop of a spike in tensions between the neighbours over a string of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control, Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik on Tuesday said all Indian fishermen being held in Pakistani jails will be released soon as a goodwill gesture.
Speaking to the media after attending a meeting convened by president Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi, Malik said he had ordered a review of the cases of all Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails. "We have decided to release all Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails and the process of scrutiny to decide how to go about the task will begin soon," Malik added.
While Malik said the decision was aimed as a goodwill gesture towards India, Pakistan interior ministry officials said the fishermen would be released along with their boats.
Meanwhile, Malik directed officials to get the fishermen to sign an affidavit stating that they would not violate Pakistan’s maritime boundary in future. Though Malik did not say how many Indian fishermen would be freed, recent figures from rights groups showed that over 250 Indian fishermen are being held in Pakistani jails while around 125 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian prisons. The latest incident took place when Pakistan's Maritime Security Agency arrested 27 Indian fishermen and seized six boats on Sunday.
The two countries frequently arrest each other's fishermen on charges of violating their respective exclusive economic zones.
Since the two sides resumed their peace process in 2011, they have taken several steps to speed up the release of fishermen and persons arrested for inadvertently crossing the border.