On the eve of their Independence Day, August 14/15, 2020, it behooves both the nations to release the 300 or so fisherfolk who are languishing in the jails of the two countries. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) if Pakistan and India are truly committed to “bilateral peace” then they need to “implement a better mechanism by which fisherfolk are turned back when they cross the maritime boundary rather than being arrested and detained.
As HRCP noted in a statement, “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. 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 release of imprisoned fisherfolk who eke out a living in what the International Labour Organization already classifies as a ‘hazardous’ occupation, is as much about their civil liberty as it is about their economic rights.”