By Asit Jolly
CHANDIGARH, March 28: Protesting the “innocence” of a 16-year-old Pakistani boy who was labelled a fidayeen and jailed in Amritsar in January, a Chandigarh-based lawyers’ collective has initiated a campaign to liberate the young prisoner and facilitate his repatriation.
The Lawyers for Human Rights International, which has represented dozens of people “incorrectly” branded as terrorists in past years, will arrange free legal aid to Mohammed Noman Arshad to help establish his true age, nationality and other antecedents. The group, which is already in touch with the boy’s family in Lahore, hopes to submit requisite documentation when Arshad is produced before Amritsar’s chief judicial magistrate on Tuesday.
A Border Security Force patrol intercepted the teenager loitering close to the electrified security fence. Even though he possessed nothing other than a school chemistry textbook and Rs 10 in Indian currency, BSF officials claimed he was a highly-motivated suicide bomber and had “confessed” to having received training at a pro-Taliban madrasa in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Officials claimed Arshad was trained at terror camps at Peshawar and Okhara, the very place where the lone surviving Mumbai terror strike perpetrator Ajmal Kasab comes from But LHRI’s lawyers, who are now in regular telephonic contact with Arshad’s mother Tahira Anwar and maternal uncle Asif (his father Mohammed Ramzan died some years ago), have put together a completely different version of the “facts”.
“I cannot tell you how my son landed up in India. We haven’t seen him since he left for school on January 11,” the anxious mother told LRI’s general secretary, Navkiran Singh. She discovered the boy was missing when he failed to return home and inquiries revealed he had never made it to school that morning. Later the family learnt of their boy’s arrest and incarceration in India from a news story in an Urdu daily published from Lahore.
According to her, Arshad is a Class 9 student at the Government Boys’ Comprehensive Higher Secondary School, Ghorey Shah Road, Lahore, where he has had a fairly consistent academic record. He scored straight A’s in mathematics and Arabic in his last school board exams. LHRI representatives are now in possession of documents proving Arshad is a minor.
– The Asian Age