Pakistan home village calls for Mumbai suspect's release
Residents of Faridkot, home to the alleged surviving gunman of the Mumbai massacre, deny any connection with their wayward son but believe India should release him in the interests of peace.india Updated: May 03, 2010 14:55 IST
Residents of Faridkot, home to the alleged surviving gunman of the Mumbai massacre, deny any connection with their wayward son but believe India should release him in the interests of peace.
The remote town in the Pakistani farming belt of Punjab province has earned notoriety as the home of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, accused of taking part in the 72-hour bloodbath in November 2008 that killed 166 people in Mumbai.
On Monday, as the 22-year-old Pakistani prepared to learn his fate in court, some people in Faridkot, about 26 kilometres (16 miles) from the Indian border, sat in groups watching TV waiting to hear the verdict, said an AFP reporter.
The day before the sentencing, a hawker distributed a weekly newspaper published by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which Indian and US officials believe is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group blamed for the Mumbai attacks.
With Faridkot's wheat harvest in full swing, workers loading grain into vehicles to a din of folk music said they were sympathetic to Kasab's "good intentions" against an "enemy" country.
Around 10,000 people live in the town. Most of the population are labourers and small farmers. Few are literate.
"Are they talking about our Ajmal?" 45-year-old Noor Ahmed asked, interrupting a discussion on how residents feel about the Indian sentencing.
"No. No. We don't know him," he said, sitting on a dirty cot in a small brick and clay room on the bank of Faridkot's canal.
"But we have sympathies for him being Muslim."
Residents said they would denounce any sentence India hands down to Kasab.
"Look, don't blame him. There is nothing wrong if he did it with good intentions against an infidel country like India," said Amjad Ali, a 60-year-old farmer with white hair.
"India should forgive him and set him free to improve relations with Pakistan," he added.
Bakhat Yar, 42, a farmer wearing a traditional grey shalwar khamis, said Kasab's father left the village years ago.
"We have never seen this boy in the village. Only his grandfather's haveli (house) is here," he said. "They have left this
place, I guess."
Yar first said that Kasab should be found guilty and sentenced, then later retracted his remarks.
"India should not give him the death sentence. After all, he is Muslim and if he did it against India, look what our neighbour India is doing.
"India is doing bomb blasts in Pakistan and it has also blocked Pakistan's water," he said -- echoing the beliefs of many in Pakistan that its arch-rival is behind suicide attacks in the country and siphoning off its water resources.
One student claimed Kasab was a childhood friend who was in a group that used to swim in Faridkot's polluted canal and liked to throw other boys into the water. He believes Kasab was brainwashed.
"Definitely, the (Mumbai) incident created a bad impression for Pakistan and especially Faridkot. We haven't earned a good name," the student said.
He called on the massacre's masterminds to be punished, and said it would be better if India extradited Kasab to Pakistan.