Karachi: Nawaz Ali Jat, a 32-year-old Pakistani fisherman, died on Wednesday after protracted illness in Civil Hospital Ahmedabad, Gujrat, India, after languishing in an Indian prison for over 13 years. He belonged to the Kharo Chhan coastal area in the Thatta district.
Nawaz had gone missing with his three other relatives- Usman Sachu, son of Haji Ibrahim Jat, Zaman Jat, son of Haji Jat, and Usman Jat, son of Ali Mohammed Jat- after the devastating cyclone that hit Pakistan’s coastal area in May 1999.
Reports gathered by The News maintained that families of these four fishermen had shifted to a Karachi’s coastal locality, Rehri Mayan, in 2002 in search for a better livelihood. Being close relatives, they have been living together ever since.
Nawaz Ali Jat was the father of two children, Najma and Abdul Ghani.
Both of them could not continue their education because of being haunted by poverty after their bread winner went missing. The widow of the fisherman, Hameeda Jat, works as a domestic worker in the neighborhood to make ends meet.
After the cyclone, the parents of these fishermen thought their children had died at sea during the natural calamity. But, their hopes were rekindled when one of them wrote to his family, narrating his detention in Sabir Mati Jail in Gujrat, India. After that, these families desperately looked forward and worked towards the release of their children.
Since then, Mai Bhagi, an old fisherwoman, the mother-in-law of Nawaz Ali Jat, has taken up the case to local influential persons and visited parliamentarians and human rights organisations to seek the safe release of her relatives. She kept corresponding with her detained relatives, giving them hopes of freedom.
However, when Mai Bhagi received the news of the death of her son-in-law on Wednesday, she panicked and started worrying about her three other relatives, whose fate now seemed uncertain.
The old woman has also attended all protest demonstrations organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) in Islamabad, Karachi and other major cities for the safe discharge of the detained fishermen.
Administrator Fishermen Cooperative Society (FCS) Abdul Saeed Khan Baloch told The News that they had received a call from the Pakistan High Commission, informing him about the death of the fisherman.
They would approach Pakistani authorities for shifting the body, he added.
He said that they had assured him that the case of these four persons had been taken on a priority basis to ensure their safe release, but unfortunately that did not happen. At the same time, Baloch denied the inclusion of names of these remaining fishermen amongst the list of 51 fishermen expected to be released within the next two to three days from India.
He also accused Indian authorities of not exchanging information about detained Pakistani fishermen and sometimes lodging criminal cases against them.
The FCS spokesman said they had received confirmation about the arrest of these four persons only five months earlier, despite their frequent correspondence with the federal government.
Both the governments had released a large number of fishermen during the time but they never considered including names of these ill-fated fishermen, who crossed maritime borders mistakenly during the devastating cyclone.
PFF spokesman Sami Memon said the family members had been waiting anxiously for Nawaz Ali Jat’s release but the information about his death had shocked them and pushed them into uncertainty regarding other imprisoned members.
He said 150 Pakistani fishermen, including those who crossed the maritime borders during the cyclone, were languishing in Indian jails.
Out of these fishermen, the FCS spokesman said 51 were said to be released within the next two-three days.