18 fishermen free by India arrive in Karachi

KARACHI: “I missed my family members a lot and often thought that I might not see them again. It’s great to be back,” said Shehzad, a young fisherman in his 20s who along with his 17 colleagues was warmly welcomed at the Karachi fish harbour on Friday after their recent release from a jail in the Indian state of Gujarat.
They were arrested while fishing in the Kajhar Creek in separate incidents that occurred in the last two years. Most of them had no contact with their families for 13 months. “I am eager to see my family back in Kharochaan, though I would now fear going into the sea,” Shehzad added.
Fishermen Cooperative Society Chairman Dr. Nisar Morai invited journalists to meet the fishermen, among was a 16-year-old Habibullah from Chohar Jamali in Thatta district. He said: “The saddest part of our story is that we had no idea how our families are surviving in our absence. We used to pray for them all the time.”
The youngest among them was 10-year-old Qurban who was arrested with his two brothers. With a garland hanging around his neck and an Ajrak on his shoulder, he seemed quite excited. “I can’t wait to go back to my village (Jungi Sar in KT Bundar) and see my family. I am happy that my brothers have also been released.”
About treatment meted out to them by the Indian authorities, the fishermen complained they were severely beaten up upon arrest, adding that later they were not physically tortured. “Their behaviour was not friendly though. What could one get to eat in a prison?” one of them responded to a question.
Earlier, their relatives only male family members waited at the harbour for hours to receive them. A major problem all the families had faced with the detention of the fishermen was economic hardship.
Living on the edge, these families had nothing to rely on once their breadwinners were taken away. Their burden of hunger and disease increased but they continued to suffer in silence as there was no financial support from the government.
“Often there was nothing to eat. I had to look after families of my nephew, brother-in-law and two brothers after their arrest,” said a fisherman whose relatives were also held in the Kajhar Creek.
Fourteen-year-old Shakeel was compelled to go on fishing following the arrest of his elder brother. “At times I was given Rs2,000 for a 10-day trip but when there was little catch, I got nothing,” he said.

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