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Burney seeks release of Naseer from India

world Updated: Jun 25, 2008 20:26 IST
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Leading rights activist Ansar Burney on Wednesday appealed to the Indian government to release a Pakistani national who has been in jail since 1971.

Burney, a former human rights minister who played a key role in the release of Indian national Kashmir Singh from a Pakistani jail, said he had informed Indian officials about the plight of Muhammad Naseer.

After being contacted by Naseer's family, Burney has taken up his case with Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal. Burney said Naseer is currently held in a jail in Kolkata.

According to Naseer's family, he was 27 years old and living in Dinajpur (now in Bangladesh) in 1971, when violence erupted in the region. Naseer's home and shop were burnt while most of his family, including his children, were murdered.

Naseer and his wife Shahla escaped to nearby forests. When he left the forest to look for food, he was arrested by members of the 'Mukti Bahini'. His wife, who witnessed his arrest, assumed he was killed. She was later moved to a camp established by the UN and then to Karachi.

In 2000, Naseer sent a letter to his relatives at Ghazipur in India and informed them that he was alive and in a jail in Kolkota. He also informed them that following his arrest by the Mukti Bahini, he was handed over to the Indian military as a prisoner of war on March 25, 1971.

Naseer also claimed that there were 26 other Pakistanis who were arrested and imprisoned by the Indian government after being accused of being spies.

Burney said he had requested the Indian government to confirm Naseer's detention and the charges under which he was held. Burney forwarded details of Naseer's plight to Indian authorities and requested his immediate release.

In another case, Burney has requested Indian authorities to release Mohammad Pervez Soda, a Pakistani national held in Saki Naka police station in Mumbai.

Burney alleged the man was being held even though India's Supreme Court had ordered his release.

Soda was convicted of criminal charges in 1999 and completed his prison sentence in December 2007 but has not yet been released, Burney said.

According to Soda's family in Pakistan, he is yearning to return home to his ailing mother and brother.

Burney informed the Indian government that his Trust is ready to pay the expenses for Soda's journey to Pakistan.