New Delhi/Lahore: Indian national Hamid Nehal Ansari was repatriated back to India after six years of imprisonment from Pakistan. After coming back to India at Wagha, Hamid said, “Extremely happy. Back home after 6 long years. I don’t have words to express.” Ansari and his family are likely to meet External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday, December 19.
Ansari met his father and mother at Wagha and the tearful reunion saw a lot of hugs. Journalist and activist Jatin Desai, accompanied Ansari’s family to the Wagah border to receive him following his release. Desai told WION, “They need to be seen from a humanitarian perspective, which we don’t. Hamid can set an example.”
Speaking to WION earlier, Hamid’s mother thanked both governments of India and Pakistan. She thanked all those people who helped them right from the beginning, who stood on their side in their time of crisis. Hamid’s father, Nehal Ansari said, “We are very happy. no words to express our gratitude and happiness. our thanks to all the people from the govt of India and govt of Pakistan. so many people were supportive. “
Ansari’s release came days after the top court gave a month deadline to the Pakistani government to complete formalities to deport him. Ansari’s three-year jail term had ended on Saturday, December 15.
Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal had claimed that Ansari was an “Indian spy who had illegally entered Pakistan.” Ansari, who was “involved in anti-state crimes and forging documents, is being released upon completion of his sentence and is being repatriated to India,” the spokesperson had said.
Ansari, a 33-year-old Mumbai resident, was lodged in the Peshawar Central Jail after being sentenced by a military court to six years’ imprisonment for possessing a fake Pakistani identity card on December 15, 2015. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2012 for illegally entering the country from Afghanistan, reportedly to meet a girl he had befriended online.
His jail term ended on December 15 but he was not able to leave for India earlier as his legal documents were not ready.
The External Affairs Ministry had sent a formal diplomat communication to Pakistan on December 11, expressing ‘serious concern’ that the Indian officials have not been granted consular access to Ansari and sought his immediate release after completion of his sentence.
In October 2017, the EAM suggested to the High Commissioner of Pakistan that the two sides could work together to resolve humanitarian issues related to elderly, women and mentally unsound prisoners in each other’s custody and consider their early release and repatriation.
Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria commenting on the release of Hamid in a Facebook post said, “We’re committed to bringing all our prisoners home. Too many still languish in prisons despite completing their sentences”
It proposed to revive the mechanism of Joint Judicial Committee and that a team of Indian medical experts could be allowed to visit the mentally unsound prisoners with a view to facilitating their nationality verification and subsequent repatriation. Pakistan responded positively on March 7, 2018.
Hamid Nehal Ansari’s case has come to symbolise the case of many Indian and Pakistani nationals languishing in each other’s jails. As per India-Pakistan ‘Agreement on Consular Access’ signed on May 21, 2008, Delhi and Islamabad exchange lists of “civilian prisoners and fishermen of each country lodged in the jails of the other” on 1 January and 1 July of every year. According to the lists exchanged on July 1, 2018, there were 108 Pakistan fishermen and 249 Pakistan civilian prisoners in India’s custody. Pakistan has acknowledged the custody of 418 fishermen and 53 civilian prisoners who are Indian or believed-to-be Indian in their jails.
(With inputs from Siddhant Sibbal)