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Pakistan releases more than 200 Indian fishermen

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Indian fishermen released from Landhi prison wait for a train to Lahore, on their way back to India, at a railway station in Karachi, Pakistan, March 6, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Pakistan has released a group of more than 200 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture, officials say.

The group of at least 220 Indian fishermen was freed in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi on Sunday.

"We released 220 Indian fishermen today as a goodwill gesture," media outlets quoted Deputy Superintendent of Karachi's Malir prison Hassan Sehto as saying.

Pakistani officials say 219 others remain in custody.

Local media reports said the second group of fishermen may be released on January 5, 2017.

The freed fishermen will be handed over to Indian authorities on Monday on the Wahga border, a road border crossing between the two countries near Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), an NGO striving for friendly relations between the two countries, said that now New Delhi should reciprocate the Pakistani gesture and release Pakistani fishermen held in Indian jails.

Both Indian and Pakistani fishermen are frequently detained because of demarcation disputes in the Arabian Sea.

Many of the detainees have been put on trial before being handed over to their countries.

Family members of Pakistani fishermen arrested by Indian authorities protest in Karachi, December 24, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The fishermen often languish in jail even after serving their terms. Some of them spend years in jail before being repatriated.

Poor diplomatic ties between the two arch-rivals mean fulfilling bureaucratic requirements for the release of jailed fishermen can take a long time.

Indian and Pakistani coastal guards routinely arrest fishermen who cross maritime borders.

Groups working for the welfare of the fishermen say the fishermen mistakenly enter the other side's water.

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