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Pakistan releases Indian prisoner Hamid Nihal Ansari after 6 years

Hamid Nihal Ansari.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For the past six years, Fauzia Ansari, mother of Mumbai-based engineer Hamid Nehal Ansari, who is being held in a Pakistani jail, has lost her appetite to a sense of dread on what fate held in store for him. 

On Monday night, however, after meeting Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood and being informed that her son would indeed be sent back to India on Tuesday, Ms. Ansari said now she couldn’t eat out of sheer excitement. “I would rather dance at this moment, I can barely contain myself,” she told The Hindu, just before boarding a bus to Amritsar and then to the Wagah border to receive her son.

Earlier on Monday, the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had told the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and informed that Mr. Hamid Ansari would be released to the custody of Indian officials at the Wagah border. India has frequently demanded consular access to Mr. Ansari, who was convicted in December 2015 for illegally crossing over into Pakistan with false identity papers, and handed a sentence of three years imprisonment, which he served in the Peshawar central jail. 

Pakistani officials, who originally wanted to charge him in the military court with far more serious charges of espionage and terrorism eventually failed to produce evidence that Mr. Ansari was anything but a modern day “Romeo” who had made a major mistake by travelling to Pakistan in search of a girl he had fallen in love with.

Mrs. Ansari is accompanied by her husband Nehal Ansari and peace activist Jatin Desai, who took up Hamid Ansari’s cause when he first travelled to Afghanistan and disappeared in November 2012. Mr. Ansari, who was 27 years old then, had struck up a love affair online with a girl in Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, and was determined to find her, especially after he heard that her family would forcibly marry her off. He crossed over from Afghanistan to Pakistan with false papers, by his own admission, and was handed in to the authorities by the girl’s family in Kohat when he reached.

It wasn’t until January 2016 that Fauzia Ansari, a college professor, finally received word that her son was alive, but imprisoned in Pakistan, and she was able to begin her campaign for his release.

“The media became our voice, and when we were not being heard, it was the media that raised the case, both in India and Pakistan,” said Ms. Ansari, thanking what she called were “farishtas” or angels in the Indian government, and in Pakistan who had helped along the way, including human rights activist Zeenat Shehzadi, an octogenarian lawyer Qazi Mohammad Anwar, who fought Hamid’s case without charging a fee, and advocate Rakshanda Naz, who oversaw his release, providing clothes and food for the just released prisoner.

 

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 9:57:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistan-releases-indian-prisoner-hamid-nihal-ansari-after-6-years/article25764016.ece

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