ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has released Indian prisoner Hamid Nihal Ansari, who was detained by the country's intelligence agencies in 2012, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment by a military court in 2015 for possessing a fake Pakistani identity card. The 33 year old Mumbai resident was lodged in the Peshawar Central Jail after being sentenced by the military court on December 15m 2015. His three-year jail term ended this year on the same date, however he was not able to leave for his hometown as his legal documents were not ready.
Last week, the Peshawar High Court gave the federal government a month deadline to complete his repatriation process. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said, “Ansari is being released upon completion of his sentence and is being repatriated to India.” He claimed Ansari was an “Indian spy who had illegally entered Pakistan and was involved in anti-state crimes and forging documents.” Ansari went missing in 2012, when he was taken into custody by Pakistani intelligence agencies and local police in Kohat. Following a habeas corpus petition filed by his mother, Fauzia Ansari, the high court was informed that he was in custody of the Pakistani Army and was being tried by a military court.
Ansari had reportedly entered Pakistan from Afghanistan, to meet a girl he had befriended online. A two-judge bench of the Peshawar HC, comprising Justice Roohul Amin and Justice Qalandar Ali Khan, heard an appeal filed by Ansari through his lawyer Qazi Muhammad Anwar. Anwar informed the bench that both, the Ministry of Interior and authorities of prison, where he was lodged, were completely silent about his release and deportation to India. Justice Khan then asked the Additional Attorney General to explain how they would keep the prisoner in jail after completion of his term.
Despite his three-year jail term having ended, he was kept in prison. On Monday, the External Affairs Ministry said that it has received a note from Pakistan that they would be releasing Ansari on Tuesday. “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,” Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. “We would like Pakistan to take action to also end misery of other Indian nationals and fishermen whose nationality has been confirmed and who have completed their sentences, but continue to languish in Pakistan jails.”
Ansari’s return to India can be seen as a big diplomatic win for the central government. India issued a total of 96 note verbales to Pakistan seeking consular access to Ansari and the decision to release him was on account of relentless pressure from New Delhi, according to reports. “We would like Pakistan to take action to also end the misery of other Indian nationals and fishermen whose nationality has been confirmed and who have completed their sentences, but continue to languish in Pakistan jails,” Kumar said. He said Indian also awaits Pakistan’s response to the visit of Indian medical team to meet mentally unsound prisoners with a view to facilitate their nativity verification and subsequent repatriation.
“We hope that Pakistan would respond and organise an early visit of the Joint Judicial Committee so that the issues of prisoners can be dealt with in a humanitarian and timely manner,” Kumar said.