Of these, 179 were fisherfolk from Gujarat who had accidentally crossed the invisible line in the sea that divides India from Pakistan. But as Sunday Times sat down to listen to their stories, expecting tales of terror and torture, what emerged was both uplifting and heart-warming. Our prisoners had actually come home with fond memories of their stay in Pakistan's prisons.
A Karachi prison scarcely seems the place for Hindu-Muslim unity, but the fishermen spoke highly of the Pakistani inmates with whom they shared jail space. The Pakistanis went out of their way to help the fishermen adjust to life in prison.
"We became one large family," says Bharat Suda Soma. "We were never discriminated against for being Hindu. Whenever we needed something, like soap or buckets, the Pakistani prisoners would get it for us."
Pakistani jailers, who gave the fishermen hope that they would soon be out, came in for praise, too: "The jailers liked us as we were well-behaved. They would let us go for walks in prison."
Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, retired Pakistan Supreme Court judge and current chairman of the Pakistani government's Committee for Welfare of Prisoners, says, "The Indian prisoners in our custody are well looked after. Someone from our office visits them every day." It was on Zahid's mobile phone that three minors released last week recall speaking to their families while in prison. "Whenever I spoke to my mother, she would cry and ask me when I would come home," said 16-year-old Kamlesh said.
The fishermen had spent between a year and 15 months in jail. Ram Singh Shamat of Junagadh district was in prison for two years. He had no idea he had crossed into Pakistani waters until he heard a shot fired in the air before being captured. "I was very scared. I had no idea what was going to happen," he says.
Their joy at being released was, of course, tempered with grief for their fellow fisherfolk left behind in prison. In a remarkable show of solidarity with their brethren, the fishermen painstakingly drew up a list of 61 men - with details of villages and talukas and dates on which they were arrested - still in Pakistani jail. Each of the released fishermen has two photocopies of this list, which they hope to circulate amongst the media and activists in a bid to get their friends free.
Jatin Desai, joint secretary of the Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy, feels that fishermen should be released by sea with their boats instead of the long route via land, from Karachi to the Wagah border and then onwards from Amritsar to Gujarat.
While 276 Indian fishermen still remain in Pakistani prisons, 29 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian jails. India released 121 fishermen last year. Zahid feels there should be a bilateral committee of officials on board a ship between the two countries, looking at cases of fishermen straying across the border and settling the matter in the sea itself. Because no amount of affection in a foreign jail can make up for lost time with loved ones back home.
- Anahita Mukherji, Times of India, Jan 15, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Speakers says two-day conference will prove to be a defining moment in Indo-Pak history; Jang Group's Shahrukh Hasan, Times of India's Rahul Kansal, CII President .....more
Maleeha Lodhi stresses free but fair mutual trade; Shahid Malik wants political harmony for sustainable peace process; Sharat Sabh .....more
Designs of enemies of peace must be frustrated: PM
Babar Dogar & Faizan Bangash
Terms improved ties with India a cherished goal; calls .....more
Page 54 of 174
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw