Pakistan to release 51 Indian fishermen
Pakistan on Friday said it would release 51 imprisoned Indian fishermen on humanitarian grounds, hoping that New Delhi will reciprocate the goodwill gesture as relations between the two nations warm.
The decision was taken at a high level meeting chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, according to a statement from his office.
Khoso “decided to release 51 Indian fishermen on humanitarian grounds as a gesture of goodwill. These prisoners have already served their sentences,” the statement said.
The prime minister expressed the hope that the Indian government will “reciprocate the gesture” and release Pakistani prisoners incarcerated in Indian jails, the statement said.
It said there were currently 482 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails, while 496 Pakistani prisoners were being held in India.
“The government of Pakistan was awaiting the confirmation of national status of other Indian prisoners,” the statement added.
Khoso directed the ministry of foreign affairs to initiate dialogue with India for the release of Pakistani prisoners and the return of Indian prisoners, the statement said.
The declaration came as relations between the two countries warm, with Pakistan’s incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif pledging to further strengthen ties.
Sharif said he would be “very happy” to invite India’s Manmohan Singh to his swearing-in ceremony, while Singh has expressed hope for better relations.
Pakistan and India frequently arrest each other’s fishermen on charges of violating their respective zones in the Arabian Sea.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which is divided by a heavily militarised Line of Control but which both countries claim in full.