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Repatriation of fishermen after formalities: Indian HC

By Rezaul H Laskar
Last updated on: December 23, 2009 19:39 IST
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The repatriation of 100 Indian fishermen whose release was ordered by Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani will get underway once "necessary formalities" are completed, the Indian High Commission said on Wednesday.

The release of the fishermen was described by Gilani's office on Tuesday as a humanitarian gesture. However, it had run into a hitch due to logistical issues.

The high commission said in a statement that it received "the formal communication in this regard from the ministry of foreign affairs of Pakistan late evening on December 22".

However, the list of fishermen to be released was provided by foreign ministry only at 12.30 pm on Wednesday, the statement said.

"Arrangements to receive the fishermen, together with completion of necessary formalities are underway and will be completed expeditiously," it said.

Diplomatic sources earlier said that the verification of the identity of the fishermen and preparation of their travel documents could be done only after receiving the complete list from Pakistani authorities.

The Indian High Commission welcomed Gilani's decision to release the fishermen and expressed the hope that "the remaining Indian fishermen in custody in Pakistan will also be released at the earliest".

"The release of Pakistani fishermen in Indian custody, whose nationality has been verified by the Pakistani High Commission in India, is also being processed," the statement said.

Authorities in Malir Jail in Karachi, where the fishermen are being held, began making preparations to send them by bus to Lahore this morning though formalities for their repatriation had not been completed.

When their travel was delayed, some of the fishermen protested, TV news channels reported.

Gilani decided to release the fishermen as a humanitarian gesture after consulting Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir.

The News daily reported that 54 of the 100 fishermen to be released are Christians. The report said Gilani had directed authorities to ensure their release on December 24 so that they could celebrate Christmas with their families.

The Pakistan government also proposed the revival of the Judicial Committee on Prisoners to resolve the issue of prisoners and fishermen in custody in the two countries.

The committee has not met since India put the composite dialogue on hold in the wake of last year's Mumbai terror attacks.
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Rezaul H Laskar In Islamabad
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