India’s ‘Facebook lover’ reunites with family after six years in Pakistani jail

Kaswar Klasra

Published: Updated:

Arrangements are in full swing at Ansari House in an upscale locality of Verosova in India’s Mumbai city to welcome son of the soil who has been languishing in a Pakistani jail for six years on charges of espionage.

The wait is over for a well-educated Indian mother who spent sleepless nights waiting to meet her son as Pakistan announced on Monday that they have released her son. Out of sheer excitement, the desperate mother went on a shopping spree to purchase shirts and trousers of his favorite brand.

Hamid Ansari, 33, an engineer by profession, had illegally entered Pakistan in December 2012, to meet his girlfriend he befriended on Facebook and ended up in a Pakistani jail on charges of espionage.

His parents have been anxiously waiting for his release since then. Pakistan’s ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Indian national is being repatriated after completing his sentence.

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“Hamid Ansari, an Indian spy who had illegally entered Pakistan and was involved in anti-state crimes and forging documents, is being released upon completion of his sentence and is being repatriated to India,” Dr Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Office told journalists.

An official from Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior Affairs told Al Arabiya English that authorities are preparing documents for Ansari’s repatriation, which eventually happened on Tuesday.

“He has been released. But, can only be repatriated to India once necessary documents are ready,” a senior official from Ministry of Interior told Al Arabiya English.

Bollywoood-inspired move

Impressed by Blockbuster Indian movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (Brave hearts take the bride), Hamid Ansari who had fallen in love with a Pakistani girl from Kohat city, travelled to Pakistan in 2012 without obtaining a visa.

Friends claim he had gone to meet his girlfriend whose parents were marrying her off to someone against her will. His parents, however, claimed he had gone to Afghanistan to join Air Afghanistan, which had offered him an “attractive” salary package. Soon after joining the service in Kabul, Hamid lost contact with his family.

His parents had been desperately looking to trace his whereabouts until law enforcement agencies in Pakistan informed the Peshawar High Court that they had detained Hamid Nihal Ansari in 2012, and handed him over to officials of an intelligence agency in Pakistan.

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Off-record conversation with police officials privy to the incident revealed that Ansari went from Mumbai to Kabul and illegally crossed over into Pakistan to look for his “Facebook friend” from Kohat near Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Local police arrested Ansari soon after he checked into a hotel in Kohat on November 14, 2012. Kohat city police informed the Peshawar High Court that they had arrested him on the “information and pointation [sic] of Inspector Naeem Ullah of Pakistan’s Investigation Bureau.

A Pakistani Court handed down Ansari a three-year sentence on December 15, 2015. His three-year jail term ended on December 15, 2018.

Welcome move

Civil society in Pakistan has welcomed Pakistan’s announcement some even terming it a “breakthrough” in Pakistan-India bilateral relationship.

“It’s an excellent move taken by Pakistan. India must reciprocate it with same devotion,” Muhammad Akhtar, Islamabad based human rights activist said.

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Indian government welcomed the gesture calling it a matter of great relief.

“We have received a note from Pakistan today that they are releasing Indian national Shri Hamid Nehal Ansari tomorrow. It is a matter of great relief, especially for the family members, that six years of incarceration of the Indian civilian in Pakistan jail is coming to an end,” Indian media quoted Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar as saying.

Relations between Pakistan and India has never been smooth. But, this is being seen as another example of the Pakistani government showing willingness to improve bilateral relationship with its arch-rival India.

Pakistan sent green signal to Delhi that it was willing to normalize relationship with India by opening ‘Kartarpur crossing’ in November, last month.