136 Fishermen, 575 Boats in Pak Custody: Govt

New Delhi
136 Fishermen, 575 Boats in Pak Custody: Govt
A total of 136 Indian fishermen and 575 boats are believed to be in Pakistan's custody at present, the government told Rajya Sabha today.

"As on July 2012, 136 fishermen believed to be Indian are in Pakistan's custody... Pakistan has not released any boat belonging to these fishermen. There are approximately 575 Indian boats in Pakistan's custody," Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said in a written reply.

He said that out of 108 fishermen whose nationality has been confirmed as Indians, 89 are from Gujarat.

On steps taken to release these fishermen, he said the government has been consistently taking up the issue concerning all Indian fishermen and their boats with Pakistan at all appropriate levels.

"The matter was taken up at the Foreign Secretary-level talks in February 2010, June 2010, June 2011 and July 2012; at the Home/Interior Secretary-level talks in March 2011 and May 2012 and at Foreign Minister-level talks in July 2010 and July 2011. The Home Minister also raised the issue during his visit to Islamabad in June 2010," Ahamed said.

An India-Pakistan Judicial Committee has also been set up consisting of retired judges from both the countries to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners, including fishermen, who have completed their prison term, he said.

India-Pakistan Joint Working Group between Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) also met here in July for working out a mechanism for release of fishermen and their boats which cross maritime borders inadvertently.

Ahamed said the Indian High Commission in Islamabad also takes up the issue with the Pakistani authorities for early release of the fishermen.

"Due to government's consistent efforts, 547 Indian fishermen have been released by Pakistan in 2012 so far, 103 fishermen were released in 2011, 454 in 2010 and 100 in 2009," he said.

In reply to another question on civilian prisoners in Pakistan, the Minister said that this year till July, 23 such people were released from Pakistani jails.

"Pakistan does no acknowledge presence of any Indian prisoner of war in its custody," he said
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