LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Thursday called on the Pakistani and Indian governments to renew their commitment to bilateral peace as they celebrate their national independence, by securing the release of over 300 fisherfolk languishing in each other’s jails.
“In both cases, fisherfolk tend to hail from poor, marginalised coastal communities and, too often, are simply forgotten if arrested by their neighbouring country for having strayed inadvertently into the other’s territorial waters. Their right to consular access and nationality verification is consistently violated, as a result of which repatriation is delayed for years,” it said in a statement.
“This leaves them at the mercy of overcrowded jails, their plight compounded as foreigners. Meanwhile, their families at home are left one-earner short, driving many further into poverty over and above the anguish of a missing family member,” the statement added.
HRCP said that the release of imprisoned fisherfolk who eke out a living in what the International Labour Organisation already classifies as a ‘hazardous’ occupation, is as much about their civil liberty as it is about their economic rights.
It urged both governments to implement a better mechanism by which fisherfolk are turned back when they cross the maritime boundary rather than being arrested and detained.