Set the fisherfolk free!


Pakistan and Indian civil society and peace activists expressed their deep concern on Monday over the continuous arrests of fisherfolk of the two countries by the authorities on both sides and confiscation of their boats.
“We appeal to both governments to release all fisherfolk and release their boats as a gesture of good will. The issue of fisherfolk needs to be seen from the humanitarian angle, not security,” they added
In a joint statement issued simultaneously from India and Pakistan, the peace activists said the poor and innocent fisherfolk go to sea to catch fish and while they are in deep waters, it becomes virtually impossible for them to recognise where their country’s waters end and the other’s start.
Those endorsing the statement from the Indian side included Kuldip Nayar, Mahesh Bhatt, Dr BL Mungekar, Ramaswamy Iyer, Jatin Desai, Kamla Bhasin, Seema Mustafa, Meena Menon, Shivam Vij, Varsha Berry, Suhasini Mulay, Mazher Hussain, Bharat Mody, Haris Kidwai and Manisha Gupte. The Pakistani activists included IA Rahman, Karamat Ali, BM Kutty, Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Iqbal Haider, Mohammad Ali Shah, Beena Sarwar, Mohammad Tahseen, Dr Tipu Sultan, Zulfiqar Shah, Suleman Abro, Zahida Detho, Zulfiqar Halepoto and Ahmed Shah.
The civil society leaders pointed out that fishing season began a couple of days ago and fisherfolk in large numbers go to sea to earn money.
“Both governments need to recognise the fact that these traditional fisherfolk go to mid-sea for their livelihood. Arresting them and confiscating their boats means depriving their families of their livelihood and causing them extreme distress.”
Recently, Pakistan’s Marine Security Agency (MSA) arrested 48 Indian fisherfolk and confiscated eight boats.
More than 520 confiscated Indian boats are already in Pakistan and around 230 Pakistani boats are in India. The boats are not released even when the fisherfolk are released.
The two countries resumed their peace process in March. Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Indian counterpart Anand Sharma have recently agreed on doubling bilateral trade in the next three years to $6 billion.
In this positive atmosphere, if both governments resolve the issues confronting the fishfolk community, it would have a positive impact on the peace process and many fisherfolk households would be grateful, the peace activists said in the statement.