Kulbhushan Jadhav aftermath: Now, mother of Mumbai-based engineer asks if Pakistan will free her son
A year before Kulbhushan Jadhav's conviction came to light, Hamid Ansari, a Mumbai-based engineer was the first Indian national to be tried and convicted by a Pakistani military court in January, 2016 for espionage.
Hamid Ansari, a Mumbai-based engineer was the first Indian national to be tried and convicted by a Pakistani military court in January, 2016 for espionage, a year before Kulbhushan Jadhav's conviction came to light. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs, while floating a request for consular access to Jadhav in January this year, had made the same appeal for Ansari at the time. However, even as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced provisional measures putting Jadhav's execution on hold, Ansari, who was sentenced to three and a half years, languishes in a Peshawar prison.
Reacting to the ICJ's verdict with silent sobs, Fauzia Ansari, Hamid's mother, said that she hopes that The Hague-based court's interim verdict on Jadhav would pave way for dialogue involving other Indians trapped in Pakistan. Fauzia said she's extremely pleased with the Indian government for their prompt and successful intervention in Jadhav's case, and hopes that now maybe her son would return to her — close to five years after he went missing.
"I had met Sushma Swarajji earlier this year, and she said that she was treating Hamid's case as priority. I obviously understand that Kulbhushan is a death row convict, and the immediacy in his case is much more. But now, after the international court's verdict, I'm certain that authorities will help us too. Of course, they will help us. Why won't they?," asked Fauzia.
When asked about the developments in Hamid's case after his conviction came to light last January, Fauzia broke into tears. "There have been no developments whatsoever, none positive," she said and added, "We have tried to get a visa to Pakistan, at least 30 to 35 times, and each time our application was rejected. We filed a petition in the Peshawar High Court through a Pakistani lawyer after we learnt of Hamid's conviction. We argued that Hamid has been in custody of the Pakistani military for three and a half years, that he has already served the three-year sentence awarded to him, and that he should now be set free. But the high court dismissed our petition stating that it did not have jurisdiction over military court orders. If the court doesn't have the power to challenge the military, who are we?"
A teacher by profession, Fauzia lives in Mumbai's Andheri suburb with her husband Nihal, who is a former banker, and their older son who works as a dentist. Their younger son, Hamid, now 32- year-old, went missing in November, 2012. A few months before his disappearance, Hamid had met a Pashtun girl over the internet from a conservative tribe in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan. The two fell in love, but the girl soon informed Hamid that her father planned to marry her off, and pleaded with him to save her. Hamid sought help of locals in the girl's region, and learnt that the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was quite porous, and that he could easily enter Pakistan via Kabul.
On 4 November, 2012, Hamid left for Afghanistan telling his parents that he would work as an airport manager in Kabul. However, six days later, he went missing. It was only fourteen months after his disappearance that Hamid's family, through a local Pakistani journalist, learnt that he had illegally crossed the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and within an hour after he checked into a Pakistani hotel, he was picked up by the local police, and handed over to the Pakistani military. The family, through the journalist, engaged a lawyer and filed a habeas corpus petition in the Peshawar High Court. It was following the Pakistani lawyer's efforts that the family, over three years after Hamid's disappearance, learnt that he was alive, in custody of the military, convicted of being an Indian spy.
"Uncertainty over life hurts more than death, you know," said Fauzia, "And after over three years of this haunting uncertainty, last year, we earned the privilege of knowing that our son is alive. He is lodged in a Peshawar prison. Our Pakistani lawyer has met him a couple of times. He gave Hamid food, medicines, clothes and some money. The authorities had taken away his spectacles even though his eye power is -6.5. The lawyer got a pair made and gave it to Hamid. He's a 95-year-old man, our Pakistani lawyer, and he has not taken a rupee from us for the two petitions he has filed on our behalf. He says it's the right thing to do."
Fauzia said that through the Pakistani media, she learnt that Hamid was attacked on three occasions for being an Indian after the Kashmir valley unrest in July last year. Through the Pakistani lawyer, the family brought this to the high court's notice, after which the court directed the prison superintendent to take the necessary measures to ensure Hamid's security. The superintendent also assured that Hamid would be safe.
Fauzia said, "We respect the law. We understand that Hamid had made a mistake by entering Pakistan without legitimate papers. He was at fault, yes. He should have anticipated the consequences. But he has served his sentence already. They awarded three years, but he has already been in their custody for over four and a half years now. It's time he is let off. We also understand the political rivalry between India and Pakistan. But a mother's yearning understands no boundary, nor does humanity. That's why Pakistanis - the journalist and lawyer - are helping us. And on humanitarian grounds, we plead with the Pakistan government to return our son. He has paid for his mistake. We all have."
The author is a journalist and author of The Front Page Murders
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