18 November 2011
Karachi, November 17. The Maritime Security Agency (MSA) on Thursday arrested more than 100 Indian fishermen for fishing in Pakistani waters, officials said.
An official at the Docks police station said they were handed over 122 fishermen and their 23 boats by MSA officials.
The arrest came as the biggest catch of Indian fishermen arrested by the MSA in recent months.
Only on November 1 the maritime authorities had detained 27 Indian fishermen and seized their five boats for illegally fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“The fishermen have been booked in two separate FIRs (310/2011 and 311/2011),” said the official at the Docks police station.
“In one FIR 79 Indian fishermen have been nominated and the other FIR carries 43 names, under Sections 3/4 of the Foreign Act and 3/9 of the Fishery Act.”
Despite frequent exchanges of fishermen in prisons on both sides of the border, a number of fishermen from India and Pakistan languish in each other’s jails.
The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has expressed concern over the arrest of fishermen on both sides.
“Our organisation has been demanding that the governments of both countries not arrest poor fishermen as there is no border marking in the waters,” said PFF chief Muhammad Ali Shah.
“Fishermen who usually unintentionally stray into the other country’s waters are put in jails and languish there for years. The last exchange of fishermen was held more than three months ago. Each fisherman spends months in prison before being set free.”
He said some 250 Indian fishermen were still in Pakistani jails and the number of Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails was over 100.
He regretted that peace efforts on both sides had failed to address the subject, which he described as ‘solely a human issue’ and not a ‘diplomatic matter’.
“Fishermen are told to fit their boats with global positioning systems to fish within the defined territorial limits,” said Mr Shah.
“One should understand that fishermen across the world are considered a poor community and cannot afford to install expensive scientific gadgets in their boats that could inform them of their position.”
He also referred to Article 73 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that said no country should arrest fishermen if they crossed over the border of another country and they should be warned and sent back.
“With this latest arrest by the MSA, I suspect the Indian border security agencies will catch Pakistani fishermen to match the number of their fishermen in Pakistani jails,” he said.