ON MAY 8, 2006, Fatima Bibi and Mumtaz, who are sisters and Pakistani nationals, were arrested on charges of drug trafficking from Attari railway station. A court subsequently convicted and sentenced them to 10 years in jail. Fatima was pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth to a baby girl in Amritsar jail and named her Hena. Now 11, she has lived in jail with her mother all these years.
However, there is hope that Hena may soon go to her home country — Pakistan — for the first time, along with her mother and maternal aunt. Although a local court had offered to make arrangements for sending the girl to Pakistan after her birth, her mother was firm that she wanted to keep Hena with her.
Fauzia Manzoor, counseller, Pakistan High Commission in India, visited Amritsar central jail Monday to confirm the nationality of the trio as part of routine procedure before release of such prisoners. Officials of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and women rights activist and lawyer Navjot Kaur Chabba also accompanied Manzoor.
Chabba told The Indian Express that the dispute over the nationality of Hena had been resolved and Pakistan would arrange for her entry into the country. “Fauzia Manzoor made it clear that Hena would be treated as a Pakistan citizen. She will go to Pakistan along with her mother and aunt,” said Chabba. She said, “Hena goes to a government senior secondary school near central jail. She is now a student of Class VII.”
“Pakistan will give new passports to Fatima Bibi and Mumtaj. In Hena’s case, they will provide a passport to her to enter Pakistan for the first time,” said Chabba. Batala-based NGO Sarbat Da Bhala had paid Rs 4 lakh (Rs 2 lakh each) fine in April this year as part of sentence to start the procedure for the release of the trio.
Recently, the Centre cleared the file related to their release and issued a no-objection certificate. Now, an NOC from the home department of Punjab government is awaited. Fatima Bibi belongs to Gujranwala and her sister, who is unmarried, is from Sikandarabad in Pakistan. They were arrested with 400 gm smack from the Samjhauta Express train at Attari railway station in 2006.