A group of 67 Pakistani nationals, including 12 children, lodged at Tihar jail for the past 19 months are in no mood to return home.
Last week, the inmates, who belong to the Ahmadiyya community, approached the Delhi High Court, requesting it to stop the execution of the Home Ministry’s decision to “withdraw” cases against them and “repatriate” them.
According to the petition filed on the Pakistanis’ behalf by the Mehdi Foundation International Organisation, they are unwilling to return home because they fear they will be “persecuted in Pakistan on religious grounds”. They face “blasphemy charges” that are “punishable by either life term or execution”.
The petition said the inmates belong to a sect of Islam that considers a living Pakistani spiritual leader, “His Lordship” Riaz Gauhar Shahi, a divine man (the “Promised Messiah of Islam, Hinduism and other faiths”). This is why Pakistani police registered blasphemy charges against them. Shahi, who was convicted of blasphemy, is serving a life term.
Last April, the Pakistanis had “held a protest at Jantar Mantar and proceeded to burn their passports and visas, raised slogans against their government, and burnt effigies of... Pervez Musharraf and Osama Bin Laden,” reads a Home ministry report. “They burnt their passport/visas in order to stay permanently in the country.” They were then arrested under sections of the Foreigners’ Act, the Indian Penal Code and the Registration of Foreigners’ Act.