It was an occasion to celebrate for the families of the 78 Indian fishermen who recently found their way back home from Pakistan. Having been away for close to two years after they were detained by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency on the charge of straying into their waters, they returned home on Monday.
According to a Times of India report, the 78 prisoners were released from a jail in Karachi as a goodwill gesture by Pakistan. Edhi Foundation, a Karachi-based philanthropic organisation, then took over the responsibility of ensuring the fishermen's safe passage home.
Pakistan Observer reported that the foundation's Lahore volunteers fed the fishermen food, soft drinks and juices when they arrived at the Lahore railway station from Karachi. The fishermen were then let into the custody of the Indian Border Security Force at Wagah border.
In the past too, the Edhi Foundation has helped Indian prisoners in Pakistan return home after their release. The foundation rose to prominence in 2015, when they helped reunite a 24-year-old hearing and speech impaired girl, Geeta, with her family in India. Geeta had strayed into Pakistan at the age of 11 and found shelter at Edhi Foundation's centre, where she continued to stay till the age of 24.
The fishermen were gifted ₹5,000 each, along with clothes and other presents by the foundation. "I may forget the time spent in jail but not the love and affection shown by Edhi Foundation volunteers," TOI quoted a fisherman, Karsan, as saying.
Fishermen being arrested and detained is not a new phenomenon for either country. Fishermen from both sides of the border often find themselves in the neighbouring country's jail on charges of illegal shipping, since there is no clear India-Pakistan boundary in the Arabian Sea.
Pakistani newspaper, The Nation reported that fishermen from both countries often end up serving long sentences in jails because legal formalities and paperwork take a long time to complete, thanks to poor diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan.