Nauman Arshad is still in his school uniform — light blue shirt and dark trousers — and should be appearing for his Class IX examinations right now. Instead, the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolboy is in handcuffs, appearing before Amritsar's Chief Judicial Magistrate on charges of being an ISI agent.
On Wednesday, his judicial remand was extended by another 10 days. On April 9, the court will hear his request for a bone density test to prove his age. Nauman wants to be transferred from the Amritsar Central Jail to the Juvenile Home. The young boy's journey from Government Comprehensive Higher Secondary School for Boys in Lahore to the Amritsar district courts began over two months ago, on January 12. Speaking to The Hindu in the court complex, Nauman explained how he boarded a bus from Lahore to the Wagah border out of curiosity, since he had always had a “desire to see what the Indian border actually looked like”. While wandering around inspecting the border pillars, he was apprehended by a BSF patrol.
Nauman claims that the BSF interrogated him, while the Punjab Police subjected him to “third degree” torture. The boy has been booked under Section 3 of the Indian Passports Act and Section 14 of the Foreigners' Act. While some interrogators asked about his supposed links with the Taliban, others probed the possibility of him being a suicide bomber. Apart from a wrist watch and a 10-rupee note in Pakistani currency, Nauman was carrying 150 gm of almonds in his pocket. This raised suspicion among his interrogators, who were convinced that he had been trained in Peshawar along with Ajmal Kasab, chief suspect in the Mumbai attacks case. The 26/11 terrorists had brought bags of dried fruit to sustain themselves during the siege.
This is not the first case of a truant Pakistani schoolboy being caught in India. The day after Nauman was arrested, 12-year-old Ateeq was caught illegally crossing into India on the Samjhauta Express. After The Hindu wrote about his case, Ateeq is now safely back in Lahore, giving Nauman hope that his case will also be settled similarly. He said an emissary of the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi visited him recently and assured of speedy procedures for his release.