New Year gift: India repatriates 66 Pakistanis despite tension

December 30th, 2008 - 8:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Attari Border (Punjab), Dec 30 (IANS) Discounting the war threat rhetoric, India Tuesday repatriated 66 Pakistani prisoners to their home country as a goodwill gesture on the eve of the New Year.The Pakistanis, including 28 women and four children, were lodged in various jails in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Amritsar (Punjab) and Delhi. Most of them were put behind bars for entering or staying in India with forged or expired travel documents.

This is the first release of prisoners from here after the Nov 26 Mumbai terror attack for which India has blamed terrorist elements in Pakistan.

Among those released was Mohammad Asif who was arrested in Delhi for overstaying in India.

Asif, who is married to an Indian woman and has three children from her, said he was returning to Pakistan to complete formalities to take his wife there. He was lodged in Tihar jail for three years.

“I am glad to be freed. I will complete the formalities to be united with my family again,” Asif said before leaving.

Majority of the prisoners were thankful to the Indian side for repatriating them despite the growing tension between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attack.

They regretted that terror attack and said that if anyone from Pakistan was involved, he should be punished.

“This repatriation is the best new year’s gift for me. I am happy to be going back home,” Karachi resident Shehzad, who was lodged in the Jodhpur jail in Rajasthan, told reporters here before leaving.

“The repatriation of these prisoners is a New Year’s gift from India,” a Border Security Force (BSF) official told IANS here as the prisoners walked to the Pakistan side Tuesday evening.

Naif Ahmed, who was to arrive from a Mumbai prison, could not reach here on time and is likely to be sent home later this week.

Out of the 66 repatriated prisoners, 51 were from jails in Rajasthan and Gujarat while 14 were lodged in Amritsar jail. Some of them said that they had been duped by travel agents in Pakistan who gave them forged documents to come here.

“The Mumbai attack was a horrible thing. Both countries should resolve issues before them. They should refrain from going to war as people will suffer,” Amir Ali said.

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