Most of the fishermen were imprisoned after crossing over to the Pakistani waters

Lahore: Pakistan on Monday handed over 20 Indian fishermen, who completed their four-year prison terms for allegedly fishing in Pakistani waters, to India at the Wagah border, according to officials.

The batch of 20 Indian fishermen, who were released from the District Prison and Correctional Facility, Malir in Sindh province on Sunday, arrived in Lahore on Monday.

The Edhi Foundation received them in Lahore and provided them with food. They were taken to the Wagah border where they got through immigration process and certain COVID-19 related tests. They crossed into their homeland in the evening, an Edhi Foundation official told PTI.

The Edhi Trust Foundation, a non-profit social welfare organisation, made arrangements to transport the fishermen to the Wagah border from where they were handed over to the Indian authorities.

The Indian nationals were handed over to the Border Security Force by the Pakistan Rangers, according to officials.

Most of the fishermen were imprisoned after crossing over to the Pakistani waters four to five years ago.

These 20 Indian fishermen were arrested by the Pakistan Maritime Security Force (PMSF) and handed over to the dock police for allegedly fishing illegally in Pakistani waters.

One Arjun Babu said that he had been growing his hair from the time of his arrest five years ago.

“It was for the fulfilment of my wish to be released soon. It was a wish. My hair grew so long and I believe, due to my wish, all 20 are being released today,” he told reporters after his release.

He said that he would get a haircut as soon as he reaches his home but not immediately just to be safe.

“I am glad to be leaving for home now but was sad about leaving behind several other Indian fishermen in jail for also having crossed over to Pakistan unknowingly like him. Please release them also so that they can be with their families,” another fisherman Ravendra said.

An officer said that 588 more Indian nationals, the majority of them fishermen, are still languishing in Landhi jail.

The 20 fishermen crossed over to the Indian territory through the land transit route of Attari border after the Beating Retreat ceremony in Attari.

They crossed over from Pakistan on the basis of 'Emergency Travel Certificate' issued by the Islamabad-based Indian High commission.

On reaching the Indian side, they were medically examined. Their COVID-19 tests were also conducted. They will stay here in Amritsar and on Tuesday, the released fishermen will precede their journey to their home state of Gujarat.

The moment the fishermen crossed over to India, they bowed down their forehead and kissed the Indian soil.

The Pakistan government had also released 20 Indian fishermen early last year and another batch of 100 Indian fishermen in April 2019 as a goodwill gesture.

Fishermen from Pakistan and India usually end up in jails after they are arrested for fishing illegally in each other's territorial waters.