LAHORE/ATTARI: Twenty Indian fishermen arrested by Pakistan for allegedly entering into the country's territorial waters were handed over to India through the Wagah border crossing on Monday.
The fishermen, kept in Karachi's Landhi Jail, were released on Sunday after completing their jail term.
A spokesperson of the Edhi Foundation, a non-profit Pakistani social welfare organisation, said that the fishermen were handed over to India's Border Security Force (BSF) in the evening after meeting the legal formalities.
"The 20 fishermen who were released from the District Prison and Correctional Facility, Malir, on Sunday and brought to Wagah on Monday were handed over to the BSF in the evening after meeting the legal formalities, Muhammad Younis, a spokesperson of the Edhi Foundation, told PTI.
They entered India on the basis of 'Emergency Travel Certificate' issued by the Indian High commission at Islamabad.
The moment the fishermen crossed over to India, they knelt and kissed the ground.
All were medically examined, including for COVID-19, said the officials in India.
The fishermen will stay for a night in Amritsar, they said, adding that the fishermen will proceed back home to their native place in Gujarat on Tuesday.
Earlier, the released fishermen, arrested for illegally entering into the Pakistani waters and fishing without permission, were escorted to Lahore by road by the Edhi Foundation.
The Edhi Foundation also paid Pakistani Rs 5,000 to each fisherman as a goodwill gesture.
The fishermen were in jail for the duration of three to five years for illegally crossing into Pakistan.
They said they had no idea that their fishing boats had drifted off towards Pakistan waters.
"It was dark and we thought that we were still in India when we were approached by the Pakistani coast guards in a big white boat. They arrested us for crossing over and seized our boat, said Suneel Lal, the longest serving prisoner among the 20, who was arrested five years ago.
Lal further said that he was looking forward to meeting his family now, especially his two daughters.
"My daughters are 20 and 17 years old now. They must have really grown up in these five years, he was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.
Bhavesh Bhika, who has served four years in the prison, said that the boat he was on had drifted towards the Pakistani waters at night.
"There is no boundary in the sea. We had no way of knowing that we had violated your border, he said.
Malir jail official Azeem Thebo said that with the release of these 20 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture on the part of the Pakistan government, there are 568 Indian fishermen still left in his jail.
Pakistan and India regularly arrest rival fishermen for violating the maritime boundary which is poorly marked at some points.
According to the lists of prisoners exchanged by India and Pakistan at the start of this year, at least 628 Indian prisoners were held in Pakistan, including 51 civilians and 577 fishermen.
The Indian Government also shared the list of 355 Pakistani prisoners in India, including 282 civilians and 73 fishermen.
Fishermen from Pakistan and India usually end up in jails after they are arrested for fishing illegally in each other's territorial waters.
The Pakistan Fishermen Forum NGO said that due to the absence of a clear demarcation line in the coastal area of the Arabian Sea between the two countries, fishermen who do not possess the modern-day navigation equipment mistakenly cross the red lines and end up in jails.