Barely 10 days in this world and little Sohail has already run into immigration problems typical of international borders. The bureaucratic red-tape that marks the passage of people along the India-Pakistan border is preventing this infant and his family — all citizens of Pakistan — from leaving Jaisalmer.
Two months ago, Mai Fatima (35), along with her husband, son and daughter, came to Jaisalmer to visit her maternal uncle.
Fatima was then seven months pregnant. She arrived on a 45-day visa that had to be extended following her uncle’s demise.
On April 14, barely a month after her uncle’s demise, the grieving family was blessed with a baby boy.
However, when they decided to take the train back to Pakistan, they were stopped by Pakistani immigration officials at Munabao, the last Indian station along the border.
The reason: Sohail, then just 10-days-old, did not have proper documentation and so the family was asked to either stay back and get the documentation in order or leave the child behind in India.
Since then, Fatima’s husband, Mir Muhammad, a subsistence farmer hailing from Ghotki district in Pakistan’s northern Sindh region, has been running from pillar to post to arrange for his family’s return to their homeland.
“They refused to let us go because my passport did not have Sohail’s photo ... ab dus din ke bachche ki photo kahan se layein ? [now where do we get a photo clicked of a ten-day-old baby?]” Fatima told The Hindu over phone.
“Now my husband will go to the CID office tomorrow ... we have a birth certificate issued by the local municipality ... after CID verification he will go to Delhi to present his case at the Pakistani consulate,” she said, exasperated by the bureaucratic nightmare her family has found itself in.
According to Indian citizenship laws, a child born in India could qualify as a citizen only if one of the parents is an Indian citizen.
“This is a temporary setback caused due to a bureaucratic requirement ... it should be easily resolved at the Pakistani consulate in Delhi,” said Hindu Singh Sodha, an activist working with displaced Pakistani Hindus in this region.