Pakistan frees 48 Indian prisoners as 'goodwill gesture'
KARACHI - Agence France-Presse
A group of Indian fishermen sit on the ground hold up pieces of paper after their release in Karachi, Pakistan, 10 September 2012. EPA photoPakistan on Monday released 48 Indian fishermen, 10 of them teenagers, as a "goodwill gesture" following a visit by the Indian foreign minister S. M. Krishna.
In a sign of thawing relations, Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar last week inked an historic agreement to ease visa restrictions between the two countries.
The release of fishermen is part of an understanding between the nuclear-armed rivals to free citizens who mistakenly stray into each other's waters.
"We have released 48 Indian fishermen from Malir jail in Karachi as a goodwill gesture," deputy inspector-general prisons of southern Sindh province, Nusrat Mangan, told AFP.
He said 32 Indian fishermen were still in Pakistani prisons."They will also be released after our authorities receive a clearance from the Indian government," he said.
Nazeer Husain Shah, superintendent of the jail, said the released prisoners included 10 teenage boys.
The Indians were presented with flowers and gifts, then bussed to the eastern city of Lahore, from where they would cross the Wagah border.
Officials said they expect India would reciprocate the Pakistani gesture by releasing more than 200 Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails.
"We expect our neighbours will show the similar spirit and release the Pakistani prisoners from their jails," Ayaz Soomro, law minister of the Sindh province said.
Pakistan and India frequently seize each other's fishermen, accusing them of violating their respective maritime boundaries in the Arabian Sea.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided by a heavily militarised Line of Control and which both countries claim in full.
Last year they resumed their tentative peace process, which collapsed after Islamist gunmen from Pakistan killed 166 people in Mumbai in November 2008.