Will India’s Supreme Court hear Pakistani mother’s cry?

August 25th, 2008 - 11:21 am ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 25 (IANS) Ailing and 72 years old, Nafees Anjum has just one desire left: to hug her son Sohail Shahzad, who has been in jail in India for 20 years and a petition for whose release will come up for hearing in the Indian Supreme Court next month.”I am losing my sight and have developed multiple diseases since my son was arrested in India. I want to see my son. I want to hug him before I am gone,” Anjum said with tears in her eyes.

Rights activists say it is a case of illegal detention.

Anjum said her son was about 30 years old in 1988 when he went to a village in Pakistan’s Pattan district bordering India to attend a friend’s marriage and never came back. Shahzad was a resident of Bahawalpur in Punjab province.

“His friends told us that they went for hunting and Sohail got separated from them and they couldn’t find him,” Anjum said.

She said Shahzad had mistakenly crossed into India and was arrested by the border guards. “Since then, I have been waiting for my son in the hope that we’ll be able sit together again,” Anjum told IANS.

According to the documents available with Shahzad’s nephew Anas, Shahzad, now 50, the resident of Fauji Basti, Bahawalpur, was arrested from a town in Haryana March 25, 1988, and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on charges of illegally entering India without valid papers.

On his release in 1991, he was mysteriously handed over to Rajasthan Police, who filed two criminal cases against him under the Indian Penal Code and the Foreigners Act.

The documents show that on June 27, 2005, P.K. Bhatia, a judge of the district and sessions court at Jaipur, ordered Shahzad’s release and asked Rajasthan Police to arrange for his repatriation to Pakistan. However, he was again put into jail.

His nephew Anas said he had obtained the documents from human rights activists in India who are trying to secure his release with the help of the Supreme Court.

Shahzad’s Indian lawyer and human rights activist Balwant Singh Bloria Raj is optimistic he would be released soon.

“The government cannot detain anyone like this,” an indignant Raj told IANS in New Delhi.

“If they want to detain him, they should have used special provisions in the law. This is a clear case of illegal detention,” Raj added.

He pointed out Shahzad had already served time for the offences he had been arrested for and so his continued detention was illegal.

“Raj has done a lot for my uncle’s release and says he would soon be sent to Pakistan,” Anas said.

Shahzad, an electrician by training, is the eldest son of Anjum and the now deceased Syed Manzoor Hussain. The father twice went to India to see his son but was only once allowed to meet him for 10 minutes.

Anas said even on his deathbed, Hussain used to cry for hours and always hoped that he would be able to meet his son before his death.

“If Kashmir Singh (who was jailed in Pakistan on spying charges) can be released, why can’t my son?” Anjum asked.

“He has done nothing wrong and I wish to meet him before my death,” Anjum said, adding: “If he can’t be released, please send me to India so that I can spend my last days with my son.”

(Muhammad Najeeb can be contacted at m.najeeb@ians.in)

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