Vadodara: Gujarat Fisheries Minister Babubhai Bokhiria today said the state government is yet to get any official confirmation on the release of 87 Indian fishermen from a jail in Pakistan.
In a goodwill gesture, Pakistan yesterday released 87 Indian fishermen arrested for allegedly violating its territorial waters and would free 86 others later this month.
The fishermen, who had been languishing in prison for the last two-and-half years, were released from Landhi Jail in Karachi and will be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border.
However, Mr Bokhiria said, "It is surprising to hear such news through media, because our government has not received any official communication from the Centre or Indian High Commissioner's office located in Islamabad in this regard."
"Unless we get official communication from the concerned authorities in this regard, how can we comment on it," he said on phone.
"After learning from media reports about the release of 87 Indian fishermen from Pakistan, I asked Gujarat Fisheries Commissioner to find out if any such message was received, to which he (fisheries commissioner) replied that till 1130 hrs today, no such message was received," Mr Bokhiria said.
As per usual practice, whenever fishermen from Pakistani jails are released, the communication is sent to the state fisheries department in advance so that it can dispatch its team of officials to Wagah border for taking custody of the released fishermen after proper verification and identification, Mr Bokhiria said.
Earlier in Pakistan, Faisal Edhi, who heads a private charity organisation, the Edhi Foundation, arranged the train journey for the fishermen yesterday and gave them gifts and some cash.
Jail superintendent of Landhi Jail, Shakir Shah had said that 86 more Indian fishermen would be released on March 20. He said a total of around 536 Indian fishermen were in jail, serving varying terms for violation of Pakistani territorial waters.
Fishermen are frequently arrested along with their boats by both India and Pakistan as the maritime border in the Arabian Sea is poorly defined, and many fishing boats lack the technology needed to be certain of their precise location.
In the past, the two nations have released each other's fishermen as goodwill gestures.
Although in December, India and Pakistan had agreed to revive the dialogue process when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Islamabad for a summit, 66 Indian fishermen were arrested by Pakistan the same month.
In January, another 45 Indian fishermen were arrested for allegedly violating Pakistan's territorial waters.
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