Protesting Pakistani fishermen end blockade of Karachi port

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A man is silhouetted as he walks amid hot and humid weather at breakwater along port area in Karachi, Pakistan May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

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KARACHI, Pakistan, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Fishermen protesting their lack of access to some waters ended a 34-hour-long blockade of Karachi port - Pakistan's busiest - on Wednesday night after talks with the government, Prime Minister Imran Khan's advisor on maritime affairs told Reuters.

The fishermen had blockaded the port in Pakistan's business capital on Tuesday, assembling trawlers across the main channel to halt shipping in and out.

Karachi handles much of the country's trade in commodities and vehicles. The government had said earlier on Wednesday it was negotiating with the protesters.

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"Talks between the Maritime Ministry and fishermen's organisation have been successful, all their justified demands will be resolved," said Mahmood Maulvi, Khan's adviser on Maritime Affairs, without giving any details.

He said the port's channel had been reopened and normal sea traffic resumed.

The protesters are fishermen from Sindh province who oppose restrictions on their entering the waters off the neighbouring province of Balochistan.

Port Qasim, which lies to the east of Karachi and handles most container traffic, had functioned as normal throughout the protest. But the business community was still worried about losses.

"If this continues there are fears that some ships might return to the high seas," Muhammad Idress, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.

Fishermen led large protests in the Balochistan port city of Gwadar in December, to demand authorities take action against trawling by Chinese fishing trawlers and vessels from Sindh.

They also protested a lack of power and water, restrictions on movement and limited sea access resulting from the high level of security for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that runs through the province.

That protest lasted a month, and ended when the provincial government agreed to most demands.

The fisheries department, coast guard and Maritime Security Agency are now carrying out patrols to stop trawlers from Sindh entering Balochistan waters.

Authorities in Balochistan detained around half a dozen fishing trawlers from Sindh last week, Tariq-ur-Rehman, director general of Balochistan fisheries department said.

Chinese fishing vessels have also been banned from entering Balochistan's waters, Rehman added.

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Additional Reporting by Gul Yousafzai in Quetta; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Catherine Evans

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