By N. N. Bhatia
I have been in touch with Fauzia N. Ansari, a lecturer at a junior college and her husband Nihal Ansari, a retired banker, both in Mumbai. Their elder son Khalid Ansari is a practicing oral dental surgeon. But for over six years now, they have not seen their second son Hamid Ansari.
An IT engineer who also holds an MBA degree, Hamid, now 31, has also served as Rotract President — Rotary President under 30 years age — and been associated with the UN as a volunteer member.
On 12 November 2012, Hamid Ansari entered Pakistan via Afghanistan without proper documents to try and help a Facebook female friend who was in despair. He went missing for three and a half years. In January 2016, it transpired Hamid Ansari was in the custody of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence.
In February 2016, a military court awarded Hamid Ansari three years rigorous imprisonment and sent him to Central Jail Peshawar. Every time there are tensions between India and Pakistan, he gets questioned and has also been subjected to beatings.
The desperate mother Fauzia Ansari has done all she can to get her son back but to no avail. She has written letters and personally met the Minister of External Affairs in Delhi, besides other senior officials, Pakistan High Commission, NHRC, UN, PMO… She has run from pillar to post, leaving no stone unturned but her despair and wait remains unanswered prayers.
Hamid was in Facebook contact with some people in Pakistan — Attaur Rahman, Saba Khan, Abdulla Zaid Khatak, Humaira Hanif, Dr Shazia Khan, and a girl from Kohat who told him she was a victim of the social evil, Wani, forcing her into marriage following a Jirga (tribal council) decision to compensate for some family rivalry (“Daily Express”, 22 May 2012). She shared her story with Hamid who decided to go across and help her.
Given the difficulties obtaining a visa and with time running short, some of his Facebook friends suggested he cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan. This he accordingly did, without proper documents on 12 November 2012.
These facts came to light after he disappeared and his parents pieced together information from his Facebook account which was still open on his computer at home. What follows is information that came to light later. It also should be noted that except for Attaur Rahman, there is no verification about the identities of the other Pakistanis on Hamid’s Facebook page, including the girl from Kohat.
Hamid initially stayed with Attaur Rehman for two days then shifted to Hotel Palwasha in Kohat on 14 Nov 2012. At around midnight, within an hour of his checking in, the local police picked him up.
There was no news about Hamid for over three years after that. Finally, in response to a habeas corpus petition filed in Peshawar High Court, the honourable court on 13 Jan 2016 declared that, “as per the report submitted by DAG, Hamid Ansari was in the custody of Military of Pakistan.”
Thorough investigation found that he was not an Indian spy but had only illegally crossed into Pakistan with fake documents under a false name.
On 10 February 2016, a military court awarded him rigorous imprisonment for three years and sent him to Central Jail Peshawar. He will complete his sentence on 16 December 2018, which does not take into account the three and a half years he spent in custody as a missing person.
Having been shifted to Mardan prison, Hamid has appealed to be moved back to Peshawar for better access to his lawyers. He has not been provided consular access or been allowed to talk to his parents. Nor are Pakistani authorities granting the parents a visa to meet him.
In November 2016, the Peshawar High Court had disposed of a petition to release him on the grounds that he was imprisoned under a military court decision, and that it is the prerogative of the Government of Pakistan to release Hamid on humanitarian grounds.
Hamid’s lawyer Qazi Muhammad Anwar is in the process of filing a petition for clemency to be considered for his early release.
I request Pakistani Government to set Indian citizen Hamid Ansari free on humanitarian grounds. Just as India grants visas on humanitarian grounds for the treatment of so many Pakistani citizens suffering from serious ailments, the Pakistani Government should reciprocate and be generous, and release all prisoners like Hamid Ansari.
I also appeal to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to renew their efforts for consular access to this son of India, and for the Indian Government to reciprocate similarly to end miseries of Pakistani families whose kith and kin are languishing in Indian jails after completing their terms of punishment.
In the holy month of Ramzan, I pray that Hamid Khan is released at the earliest to end the suffering of his desperate parents.
The writer is a retired colonel of the Indian Army who works for humanitarian causes like repatriation of India-Pakistan cross-border prisoners. Email: [email protected].