Last Thursday, Mohammad Saeed, 52, sat alone in his room and mulled about how cruel life is. Saeed had been left alone after 14 of his friends went back to their homes—in Pakistan.
These 14 Pakistanis, along with Saeed, had been languishing at a detention centre in the city. Some of them had been living here for nearly four years even after having completed their jail terms.
The endless wait had left the Pakistanis with little hope of ever seeing their loved ones again. So much so that on January 1, this year, three convicted ISI agents, Abdul Razzak, Mohammad Sadiq alias Aslam and Rafaqat Ali, had fled after allegedly fooling a Sub Inspector of Indian Reserve Battalion. Their fellow detainees said the trio were desperate to go home and couldn’t wait anymore.
In January, Hindustan Times had carried a series of reports on the plight of these detainees.
Saeed, still lodged at the Lampur detention centre in northwest Delhi, was arrested on charges of spying when he came to India in 2005. “I completed my sentence in September, last year. I have a 19-year-old daughter who is of marriageable age,” said Saeed.
There are two others like him at the deportation centre waiting to go home.
After HT’s reports, a civil rights body, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court, which directed the authorities concerned to expedite their deportation.
“It was only after the matter was reported in HT that the government became active in the matter and the Pakistanis were sent home,” said Mahipal Singh, member, PUCL.
One detainee was a 15-year-old boy caught at the Wagah border when he had crossed over hoping to meet Shahrukh Khan, his favourite Bollywood actor.
A Pakistani Embassy official blamed “red tapism” for the delay in the repatriation process. He said that they initiate repatriation procedures as soon as they get information about detainess.
“There is no delay on our part. The Indian authorities have to inform us about the men who have completed their terms. We verify their details and provide them with the necessary documents. If a person has finished his sentence, there is no point in detaining him,” said Sayeed Zulfikar Gardezi, minister (political), Pakistan.
The repatriation of 14 men, meanwhile, has given Saeed some hope. But he doesn’t know yet whether his wait will be a long one or a short one.