New Delhi/Lahore: Indian national Hamid Nehal Ansari who had been imprisoned in Pakistan prison for the past six years finally crossed the Attari-Wagah border to reach India on Tuesday evening. Ansari and his family are likely to meet External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday. He and his family had a tearful reunion at the Wagah border.
Journalist and activist Jatin Desai, accompanied Ansari’s family to the Wagah border to receive him following his release.
Speaking to WION earlier, Ansari’s mother thanked both governments of India and Pakistan and “all those people who helped them right from the beginning who stood on their side in their time of crisis.”. Ansari’s father, told WION, “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, who was lodged in Kohat Central Jail in Pakistan was released by Pakistan on December 18. Ansari’s release came days after a top court gave a one-month deadline to the Pakistani government to complete formalities to deport him. Ansari’s three-year jail term 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 as his legal documents were not ready. On Thursday, the Peshawar High Court granted the federal government a month deadline to complete his repatriation process.
On getting the news of his release, journalist Desai went along with Hamid’s father Nihal Ansari and mother Fauzia Ansari to the Wagah border in Punjab to welcome him and get him back home.
Desai told WION, ” They need to be seen from a humanitarian perspective, which we don’t. Hamid can set an example.”
“Hamid’s release formalities will take some time. He will arrive anytime today. We are expected to be in Mumbai tomorrow,” he said.
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.
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.
(With inputs from Siddhant Sibbal)