Pakistan frees 20 Indian fishermen, dozens still in prison

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KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan has freed 20 Indian fishermen who spent four years in prison in the port city of Karachi for violating the country’s territorial waters, an official said Sunday.

The group left the prison and boarded a bus for the eastern city of Lahore carrying sweets and gifts handed out by a charity, said Kamran Ahmed Sheikh, a prison official. He said they would be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wahgah border crossing.

Sheikh said there were still dozens of Indian fishermen in the prison awaiting release.

Both India and Pakistan periodically arrest each other’s fishermen for allegedly crossing their maritime border in search of a better catch. But both sides every year release some prisoners after negotiating their release.

The two nuclear armed south Asian neighbors, who gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947, are archrivals mainly because of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. The region is divided between India and Pakistan but both claim it in its entirety. Relations between them were further strained after India unilaterally abolished the autonomous status of its part of Kashmir in August 2019.