The story of how Sushma Swaraj helped Uzma Ahmad return from Pakistan
Uzma Ahmed, who was forced to marry a Pakistani at gunpoint, returned to India on May 25 after a court ordered her release.india Updated: May 29, 2017 12:04 IST
Her only crime, as they say, was falling in love.
Uzma Ahmad met Tahir Ali, a Pakistani citizen, in Malaysia. She travelled to his home in the neighbouring country on May 1, only to find that Ali had four children from a previous marriage. What followed was a wedding at gunpoint, sexual assaults, and a subsequent escape to the Indian high commission.
She was brought back to India on Thursday, after a brief legal battle.
“It’s easy to go to Pakistan, but tough to return. Pakistan is a well of death,” a tearful Uzma said upon her return.
Entering the Indian high commission wasn’t easy. In order to trick Ali into taking her there, a couple working with the embassy in Islamabad pretended to be her brother and sister-in-law.
“Uzma told Ali she could get some cash for him from her ‘relatives’ at the high commission,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told HT. “It worked, because Ali was a greedy man.”
As the harassed woman went in to meet deputy high commissioner JP Singh, Ali waited outside. A call was made to Swaraj, but she was in the midst of a meeting. Singh then arranged for Uzma to stay the night at the embassy.
When Swaraj was contacted the next day, her immediate instruction was to “verify Uzma’s credentials as an Indian national”. Her passport was thoroughly checked, and the address of a brother in India was verified.
Once Uzma’s credentials were confirmed, embassy officials received an order from Swaraj. “Even if we have to keep her at high commission for a year or two, we will,” it said.
Embassy officials got in touch with Pakistani authorities the next day, and they responded positively. However, that was also when two new factors came into play – the International Court of Justice stayed the execution of suspected RAW agent Kuldeep Jadhav, and Ali began planning to go legal. Pre-empting the move, embassy officials approached the Islamabad high court on May 12.
At the high commission, Uzma was getting jittery. Ali would roam around the high commission with four aides, often flashing rifles at those guarding the building. “I don’t want to go back to him,” she told officials. “Please feed me poison instead.”
When the matter came up for hearing before the Islamabad high court, armed guards escorted Uzma to its premises in an embassy vehicle. The judges ordered her return after a detailed hearing.
Though Swaraj wanted Uzma back in India immediately, that could not happen. High commission officials got a certified copy of the high court order around 2.30 pm, just an hour before the Wagah Border gate was expected to shut. Realising that reaching before that was impossible, authorities decided to keep Uzma at the embassy for one more day.
Singh left with the woman for the border at 2.30 am on May 24. They reached Wagah around 7.30 am, two hours before the gate would open. “Wait in the car with her,” Swaraj told Singh. “I don’t want any more hassles before she gets back.”
At 9.30 am, Uzma entered India again. Celebrations broke out soon after. Swaraj tweeted her welcome, and television channels relayed the good news across the country.
Uzma met the Union minister the next day, and broke down in her embrace. “I am here only because of Sushma ma’am. She told me that I was Hindustan ki beti, her daughter, and that I need not worry. These words gave me strength when I was completely torn inside,” she said, also thanking her “bhaiya and bhabhi” at the Islamabad embassy for their help.