Pakistan today said it will release 57 fishing boats seized from 150 Indian fishermen, who were set free in May as a goodwill gesture. The decision to release the boats came after instructions from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. "Government of Pakistan has decided to release 57 fishing boats that were in its custody," the Foreign Office said in a statement.
A nine-member Indian delegation visited Karachi from July 18-20 to inspect the boats and discuss modalities for the release with officials of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA). While every effort is made by the PMSA to keep the boats in good condition, however, some minor repairs are still required before the boats could be physically handed over, the statement said. "In this regard, a follow up visit of Indian officials would take place sometime in August to oversee the repairs before they are returned in mid-September," it said.
Indian fishermen and boats are often apprehended by the PMSA for allegedly violating Pakistan territorial waters. "Usually the boats are not in seaworthy condition and are not returned. However, following instructions from the Prime Minister to return these boats, hectic efforts were undertaken by the PMSA to ensure that the boats are returned to their rightful owners," the statement said.
The move came following the release of 150 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture in May. The Foreign Office said 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. 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 are released whose sentences have been completed.