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September 6, 2019
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Hamid Ansari: ‘Love-struck’ Indian home after Pakistan jail ordeal

Hamid Ansari reunited with his family

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Hamid Ansari reunited with his family at the border on Monday

An Indian man held for six years in Pakistan after illegally entering the country has returned to his family.

Hamid Ansari was convicted on charges of spying after he was found with a fake Pakistani identity card.

But his supporters said he had entered the country to pursue “blind and stupid” love with a woman he met online.

It is not clear, however, if he ever met the woman he crossed the border for.

Ansari was greeted at India’s Wagah border by his family, government officials and journalists.

His return ends a years-long ordeal for his family who fought to first track him down, and then secure his release.

Though officially convicted in 2015, Ansari had been in Pakistani custody since 2012.

His jail term officially ended on Sunday, but his release was delayed because legal formalities had not been completed.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence and the partition of India in 1947 and regularly jail each others citizens.

Who is Hamid Ansari?

Hamid Ansari is the youngest son of Fauzia Ansari, the vice-principal of a Mumbai college, and banker Nihal Ansari.

In November 2012, the 33-year-old had just started a new job as a lecturer at an educational institute when he told his parents that he was going to Afghanistan for an interview with an airline company.

But a few days after he landed in the Afghan capital Kabul, Ansari went missing.

Image copyright
Fauzia Ansari

His family says that he stopped communicating with them, and his phone number was switched off.

Activist Jatin Desai, who has been at the forefront of efforts to get Ansari released, told BBC Hindi that that the family had then checked his laptop, where they discovered that he had been communicating with several people from Pakistan via email and social media.

They had also realised that he was in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of the country.

So why did he go?

“Blind and stupid love,” according to Mr Desai.

In comments to India’s Mumbai Mirror newspaper, Mr Desai said that he first met Ansari when he had approached him about six months before his disappearance, asking for help with getting a Pakistani visa. He claimed he wanted to marry a woman in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who he had met online.

“I had a big laugh when he told me that he wanted to marry a woman in a place notorious for honour killings. I told him to stop being stupid and concentrate on his career,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

But the determined Ansari reportedly reached out to people in Pakistan, who apparently told him he could enter the country through Afghanistan more easily.

He entered through Torkham in Afghanistan after obtaining a fake Pakistani identity card under the name Hamza.

Then, according to documents released later, he was arrested from a hotel in Kohat city, where the girl he had come to find reportedly lived.

How did his release come about?

After his family was unable to trace his whereabouts in Pakistan, they reached out to government officials and activists for help.

Among them was Mr Desai, who has been working for many years to secure the release of both Indian and Pakistani prisoners jailed in each others countries.

A Pakistani journalist – who was later detained for a long period – managed to get in touch with Hamid’s mother in Mumbai and filed a missing person’s petition in court on her behalf.

She played an important role in encouraging a government commission on enforced disappearances to investigate his case.

As a result, security agencies, in early 2016, eventually admitted that Ansari was in their custody and had been jailed.

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Ansari pictured before he went to Pakistan

The Indian Express newspaper quoted official sources as saying that the Pakistan government did not allow any Indian officials to meet Ansari for the entire six years,

His release now is being seen as a “humanitarian gesture” by the new Pakistan government, led by Imran Khan.

The reaction from Pakistan

Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Islamabad

The morning headlines on Pakistani television channels were unanimous: “Indian spy released after completing prison term,” they said. But the reality may not be as stark.

Hamid Ansari was missing for well over three years before it was disclosed that he’d actually been picked up by an intelligence agency and sentenced to three years by a military court for espionage.

Since the military court records remain secret, it is not clear what the actual evidence was. But investigations conducted by the human rights cell of the Supreme Court and hearings held at Peshawar High Court found Mr Ansari’s account of events to be reliable in the light of evidence put before it.

At one point, Mr Ansari’s lawyer even pleaded that he should be charged for illegal entry only and that espionage charges be dropped. But the Peshawar court refused this in the end on grounds that it had no jurisdiction to overturn the ruling of a military court.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman on Monday still described Ansari as an “Indian spy” but the narrative in India is very different.

However given Mr Ansari trespassed into Pakistan at a time when militancy was at its peak, and the fact that he is an Indian national, the military court actually took a rather lenient view of his case, observers here say.

Source BBC News

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