FOR THE two Mumbai families whose sons have been arrested by Pakistan authorities on charges of espionage, the surgical strike by India along the Line of Control ( LoC) has led to fears that bringing them back will become more difficult.
Hamid Ansari, a youth from Versova, was arrested in November 2012 by Pakistani authorities for spying. In August this year, he finally managed to get consular access. For his mother Fauzia Ansari, who has been fighting tooth-and-nail for her son’s release, just when things were looking bright, the unrest in Kashmir, the Uri attack and now the surgical strike by Indian Army has come as a setback. “We were very happy that my son finally managed to get consular access. But now, with such a tense atmosphere between the two countries, we don’t see our case moving forward,” Fauzia told The Sunday Express.
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“I have not spoken to my son for the past four years. I am dying to hear his voice. After consular access was granted, I was hopeful that through the lawyer, we would be able to communicate with each other. But now that channel seems blocked,” Fauzia said.
A teacher by profession, Fauzia said that it was through her counsel that she could ask her son about the news of attacks on him in the Pakistan prison. “In the past six months, he had been attacked twice. On one occasion, somebody abused and roughed him up for ‘being an Indian whose country is responsible for the unrest in Kashmir’. I enquired about this through a lawyer and they confirmed to me that he was indeed attacked twice,” Fauzia said. “I am so helpless. I cannot do anything to ensure that my son at least gets a chance to prove his innocence.”
Hamid Ansari, then 27, left home on November 5, 2012, claiming that he was headed to Afghanistan in search of a job. But his family later came to know from officials and associates that he was in love with a woman from the Kohat region of western Pakistan, and had decided to cross over to prevent her marriage with another man.
According to Mumbai Police, Ansari was allegedly convinced by friends and contacts in Pakistan that he could enter the country easily from Afghanistan. Indian high commission officials in Pakistan believe he had been arrested by local officials for entering the country illegally. He is currently serving a jail-term of 3.5 years in Pakistan on charges of being a spy.
While the Ansari household is holding on to the hope that consular access is a step in the right direction, for the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the increased hostility between the two countries has come as a major worry. Jadhav was arrested in March this year for being a Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) agent engaged in arming and financing Baloch insurgents.
“After the arrest, we were hoping that the government would initiate some negotiation with Pakistan to get back our son. But in the present situation, we don’t see that happening anytime soon. Jadhav has been booked on a very serious charge of espionage but with no consular access, how will we ever be able to prove that he is just a businessman who was carrying on his trade?” said a family member on the condition of anonymity.
In June, Pakistan had denied India’s request to provide Jadhav consular access. “Since he is a foreign national, it is Pakistan’s responsibility to share details concerning the arrested person and also allow him to avail the service of a lawyer. But that has not happened so far. It is a settled international law that family members of an accused have to be intimated about the arrest and the accused be provided counsel,” a family source said.
Fauzia, meanwhile, has turned to Twitter in her quest to get back her son. She has started #HelpHamid trends on Twitter, and spends every Sunday tweeting over 200 messages so that the authorities take note of it.
“I have learnt that Twitter is a very powerful medium to get noticed and therefore, I have taken my campaign to the social media platform. Since I am busy through the week, I spend my Sundays sending out over 200 tweets so that hashtag #HelpHamid trends and people ask the authorities on both the sides to help me,” Fauzia said.