Centre gives nod, Pakistani sisters to finally walk free

The two, who were arrested for carrying drugs from Samjhauta Express in 2006, have served term; one gave birth to daughter in jail

punjab Updated: Aug 21, 2017 22:10 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Pak sisters India,Samjhauta Express,Mumtaz
Fatima Bibi, her daughter Hena and sister Mumtaz are behind the bars in a drug case.(Ht Photo)

Two Pakistani sisters, arrested from the Samjhauta Express in May 2006 for carrying drugs and now lodged in the Amritsar Central Jail despite having served their jail term, have finally got a ray of hope as the central government has given clearance for their release.

Mumtaz (38) and her elder sister Fatima Bibi (42), who was pregnant at the time of their arrest and has a 10-year-old daughter, were awarded 10-year sentence. The two, headed to meet their maternal uncles in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar, were nabbed at the Attari railway station.

The two were to undergo two-year extra imprisonment in case they did not pay ₹4 lakh fine the court imposed on them. An NGO paid the penalty four months ago. Fatima gave birth to Hena in jail. The court had intervened to secure the child’s release but Fatima refused to send her back to Pakistan alone.

Fouzia Manzoor, counsellor of Pakistan High Commissioner in India, along with officials of Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) and women rights activist advocate Navjot Kaur Chabba visited the jail on Monday.

Pak High Commission officials were here to determine the nationality of the two sisters as is required for their release.

Officials said after the Amritsar senior superintendent of police (SSP rural) and the state home department cleared the file, the Union home ministry gave its nod too.

Chabba, who is contesting the case for the three, said, “Now, the ball is in the court of the state home department which is to grant no-objection certificate (NOC) for their release and send it to MHA. The MHA will pass on NOC to the Pak High Commissioner and only then the release will finally take place.”

Manzoor, who gave ₹2,000 to each Pak prisoner in the jail as Eidi (Eid gift), urged the state home department to issue NOC at the earliest besides seeking help of local activists for their cause. The central jail has 53 Pak prisoners, including Fatima and Mumtaz.

“I contacted the department which is likely to give NOC in a week. Once it does so, it would hardly take a week to release them,” Chabba said.

Regarding the dispute over the child’s nationality, Chabba said she is minor and is also a Pak citizen and there is no possibility the issue would become hurdle in their release.

The case

Fatima belongs to Gujranwala, while Mumtaz, who is unmarried, is a resident of Sikandrabad. Fatima had argued in the court that the 400-gram smack seized from their compartment belonged to a fellow traveller.

With regard to their conviction in 2006, Batala-based non-government organisation, Sarbat Da Bhala Humanity Club, came forward to pay the fine imposed on them.

Their main jail term got completed in November 2016, but they have been serving an extra two years due to non-payment of the fine.

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 21:08 IST