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Pakistan frees 151 Indian fishermen

Goodwill gesture before meeting of Pakistan's and India's new PM

Pakistan frees 151 Indian fishermen

Indian fishing boats. File picture: Shutterstock reporter, Karachi

May 26, 2014

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Pakistan freed 151 Indian fishermen on Sunday in a goodwill gesture as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif flew to India to attend the inauguration of his counterpart Narendra Modi.

Modi, who is to be sworn in as Prime Minister of India in Delhi on Monday, welcomed the diplomatic gesture.

"I welcome the step by Sri Lanka and Pakistan to release our fishermen. I welcome our fishermen brothers back home!" Modi tweeted. Sri Lanka also ordered the release of all detained Indian fishermen yesterday but did not indicate how many there were.

The 151 prisoners and 57 fishing vessels were released in Pakistan on the directive of Sharif, a press release from his office said. The prisoners are to be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah-Attari border on Monday.

This is the first time in years that either side has decided to release confiscated fishing boats, according to the statement.

Senior prison official Nazir Shah told reporters that 92 Indian fishermen had been freed from Hyderabad's Nara Prison after completion of the necessary legal procedures and verification by Indian authorities.

"Most of these prisoners were fishermen who were arrested and brought here for trespassing into Pakistani territorial waters during fishing," Shah said.

Another 59 fishermen were released from the Malir jail in Karachi.

There are 521 Pakistani prisoners in India, including 168 fishermen, according to Pakistan government figures. The statement from Sharif's office expressed hope that they too would be able to return to their loved ones soon.

Sharif, who departed for Delhi early Monday, is to have a bilateral meeting on Tuesday with Modi, according to the Foreign Affairs Office.      

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