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Plight of Indian fishermen languishing in Sri Lankan, Pakistani jails

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New Delhi: Thousands of Indian fishermen are languishing in the jails of neighbouring countries with nearly 650 of them arrested this year until October only by maritime security agencies of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma and Bangladesh.

According to government sources, Sri Lanka is topping the chart as some 350 Indian fishermen have been arrested and 52 fishing trawlers seized by the Sri Lankan navy. Pakistan’s MSA has arrested 239 Indian fishermen and seized 35 fishing boats. Bangladesh has 56 and Burma has 6 Indian fishermen in their custody.

In most of the cases, Indian fishermen set forth into the waters or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the neighbouring countries, which led their maritime security agencies to take action against them.

Two incidents were witnessed in September and October where fishermen were fatally attacked by MSA when they ventured into Pakistan waters. Thereupon, the Indian coast guard issued a fresh advisory to the Gujarat government recently warning them not to wander in the “no-fishing” zone.

This advisory came against the backdrop of the killing of a 40-year-old fisherman who had set forth 10 nautical miles inside Pakistani waters and was shot dead on September 18. Another fisherman was found injured when his boat was in Pakistani waters on October 15. He was identified as Dhanji Bamaniya and was let off on humanitarian grounds along with five others.

Authorities have warned the fishermen against not only crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) but also not to do fishing in the “no fishing” zone, failing which their documents would be forfeited.

“We have informed the Fisheries Department of Gujarat government about this. On our part we can only seize their documents and hand it over to the state authorities,” a Coast Guard official said.

An Indian delegation is scheduled to visit Pakistan to inspect 22 Indian boats seized by the neighbouring country and discuss modalities for their release. Coast Guard sources said that the Pakistani authorities keep releasing fishermen, but not the boats.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses

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Pakistan, Religious Freedom
Members and supporters of the Muslim Student Organization (MSO) chant slogans during a protest after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, in Islamabad, Pakistan. VOA

The United States said Tuesday it has added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over its treatment of minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the U.S. government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.

Pompeo a year earlier had placed Pakistan on a special watch list – a step short of the designation – in what had been seen as a U.S. tactic to press Islamabad into reforms.

Human rights advocates have long voiced worry about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, including Shiites, Ahmadis and Christians.

Sikh, Religious Freedom
A Sikh pilgrim visits the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

But the timing of the full designation may be jarring as it comes after Pakistan moved to resolve its most high-profile case, with the Supreme Court in October releasing Asia Bibi – a Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy.

The government recently charged a hardline cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi’s acquittal.

“In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression,” he said.

Nine countries remained for another year on the list of Countries of Particular Concern – China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

pakistan,Sikh, Religious Freedom
Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, center, arrives along with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, second left, brother Atal Yousafzai, left, and the principal of all-boys Swat Cadet College Guli Bagh, during her hometown visit, March 31, 2018. VOA

The United States removed one country from the list – Uzbekistan– but kept it on the watch list.

Pompeo also put on the watch list Russia, adding another item of contention to the relationship between the two powers.

Also Read: The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the heterodox Christian group known for proselytization.

Also on the watch list was the Comoros, the Indian Ocean archipelago that is almost exclusively Sunni Muslim. (VOA)