A Gulmi man who spent 30 months in a Pakistani jail for straying into Pakistani maritime waters returned home today with the help of Nepali embassy in Pakistan and a local non-governmental organisation.
Min Bahadur Sartunge Magar, 26, of Badagaun VDC, Gulmi district, was released from Landi jail in Karachi yesterday and flew to Kathmandu via Bangkok. Saiban Welfare International Organisation of Karachi, which helps poor prisoners, paid for his air ticket. He was received by the Nepali Migrants Association at TIA.
Magar had been working in India since he was 18. He was arrested, along with 12 Indian fishermen, when their fishing boat sailing near Gujarat strayed into Pakistani waters.
Talking to THT over phone from Pakistan, Nepal’s Ambassador to Pakistan Bharat Raj Paudyal said the embassy started to enquire about Magar after a report in a local daily mentioned a Nepali prisoner languishing in a Karachi jail.
The newspaper information was sketchy, so the embassy sought the help of a local welfare organisation to find details of the prisoner. “Since Magar had given two nicknames — Pampha and Khim — to the Pakistani authorities, it took long to get him out of jail,” Paudyal added. He said Saiban International Welfare Organisation General Secretary Haidar Ali met Magar and informed the embassy. Deputy Chief of Mission Tirtha Aryal met Magar in jail on January 23. “We could have sent Magar to Nepal 10 days ago but could not do so due to lack of funds,” he added.
The embassy called Magar’s family in Nepal to verify his nationality. Nepali embassy convinced the Pakistani authorities to release Magar, saying he is uneducated and landed in trouble because of his ignorance. “Fishermen’s arrest is a sensitive issue between India and Pakistan and is resolved by prisoners’ swap after long diplomatic efforts. But since Magar is a Nepali national, he would not have a chance to be swapped for another prisoner,” he added. Paudyal said Indian fishermen, who were arrested with Magar, were still languishing in the jail.
“When Ali met me in jail, I requested him to tell our embassy to get me out and he did so,” Magar told THT.
Magar, who lost his mother when he was five years old, had been working in India since he was 18. He said he joined fishermen in Gujarat after he was assured that he would get more salary if he joined them. Magar, who was earning only INR 3,500 a month, readily joined the team after he was offered a monthly salary of INR 10,000.
Magar used to go for fishing with his Indian coworkers usually at night. He said he had never heard of fishermen being arrested for straying into other country’s maritime waters. “I would not have joined Indian fishermen had I known the consequences,” he said. Magar said he identified himself as an Indian because he was told by Indian coworkers that if he told Pak authorities that he was an Indian, he would be released soon. Magar said after the ordeal he had decided to “work in my own country”.