New Delhi: Hamid Nihal Ansari, an Indian national who returned home in December 2018 after being jailed in Pakistan for six years, on Wednesday remembered late BJP leader Sushma Swaraj as his “mother”.

Swaraj, who in her capacity as then external affairs minister played an important role in bringing him back to India, died of a cardiac arrest late Tuesday night.

Speaking to media, Ansari described her death as a “big loss” to him. He said that he will always have a deep respect for her and that she will stay in his heart. He further said that after his return from Pakistan, she guided him to look ahead.

A video of Ansari and his family meeting the then foreign minister after his return had gone viral on social media. Ansari, an engineer by profession, was working in Afghanistan when he illegally entered Pakistan to meet a girl he met online. In 2015, a Pakistani military court sentenced to him to three years in jail for possessing a fake Pakistani ID card.

The 67-year-old Swaraj was well known for responding to people’s call for help on Twitter. Besides Ansari, she was also instrumental in ensuring the return to India of Geeta, a 27-year-old deaf and mute woman, who spent 15 years in Pakistan after crossing over inadvertently in 2003.

Swaraj’s death comes just days after passing away of ex-Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, a post that the former, too, held.  Another former Delhi chief minister Madan Lal Khurana died in October last year.

President Ramnath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah were among the host of politicians who visited her residence to pay their last respects.