Civil society organisations working for the protection of the rights of fishermen in Pakistan and India have launched a month-long joint campaign from April to May this year on both sides of the border to ensure release of fishermen and find permanent solution to avoid disturbing the fisher people of the two countries.
Spokesman for Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Sami Memon said on Saturday that this move aims to raise pressure at regional level to ensure future plan of action with deciding about clear demarcation of the sea territories to avoid arresting fishermen or seizing their boats.
He said they were visiting the communities frequently in the remote coastal areas, organising rallies and sensitising the governments of India and Pakistan to release the detained fishermen. “The move is taking momentum gradually as the community people themselves are eagerly joining the rallies and protests. The PFF will soon organise a huge rally in Karachi by bringing hundreds of fishermen from other areas to the Sindh Assembly to show strength and present memorandum to the speaker with the recommendations of the community,” he added.
According to Memon, the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and the PFF are leading the campaign for the cause.
Majority of the detained fishermen belong to the poor families and their children have been facing hardships to run their family affairs.
Looking to the hardships of the poor families, the PFF has initiated a campaign to motivate the community people, who become victims of border security forces while moving their boats to the open sea for fish catch.
“It is not only the border force hunting fishermen and their vessels the government agencies here also target fishermen in the name of security concerns during their way to the open sea, disrupting their livelihood activities. Anyway, this specific move is meant to secure safe release of fishermen of both the countries and devising permanent solution of the issue on priority basis,” he added.
Memon said that they have visited different areas of the coastal villages in Karachi, Thatta and Badin districts to learn the community’s issues and mobilise the people.
“We are getting inspiring response from the community people residing in remote coastal villages, whose relatives either have been in jails or have experienced this hardship in the past. We have observed that the residents are living in horrible situation without basic facilities. They need help to raise the voice and convey their message to the parliamentarians in the provincial and national assemblies,” he added.
Chairperson PFF Mohammed Ali Shah said that their offices receive a large number of parents and relatives of the fishermen who have been caught by the Indian authorities and languishing in different jails there for several months.
“For the poor families the arrest of their bread earners is not less than disaster. They are vulnerable to face hardships. In fact at this time these families need relief goods, and the humanitarian institutions should extend helping hand to support these families so that they may feel safe and secured.
“They are in dire need to run their family affairs. They are worried about their children who do not go to schools in the absence of their fathers and guardians. They are waiting to receive their loved ones. They need ration and health cover.
“The PFF teams are visiting island villages and coastal localities to learn about the situation and problems they are facing. There are 14 island villages, which do not have access to basic facilities, including water, health and education,” Shah said.
“It seems these island communities have been discarded by the state authorities despite the fact that their votes are valuable. They have voted to elect some representatives but irony is that to whom these people should ask that whose people they are?
“Why they are being treated like this. They are law-abiding citizens and they deserve to be protected in terms of providing livelihood.
“We have decided at both sides in Pakistan and India to force the governments to ensure safe return of fishing boats and tools along with releasing the detained fishermen so that they may continue their livelihoods,” he added.
Mohammed Ali Shah further said that the PFF has already constituted a struggle committee to take up the matters at policy level through community mobilisation, as the state authorities themselves were reluctant to resolve the issues.