HUMAN INTEREST: Pak frees Bengal teacher

HUMAN INTEREST: Pak frees Bengal teacher – five years for straying ?!!

Abdul Karim freed - now 5 years older and wiser ?!! (TT)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY MEHEDI HEDAYTULLAH

Islampur, Aug. 29: A North Dinajpur man who taught in a Patiala madarsa became the first Indian prisoner since 26/11 to be released by Pakistan, walking free yesterday after a five-year term for straying across the Punjab border.

Abdul Karim had been discovered by the International Red Cross in the Rawalpindi prison in 2007. After that, the 25-year-old had written to his parents through the Red Cross saying he was alive and well, after his family in Goalpokhor’s Betabi village, 90km from North Dinajpur’s Islampur, had given him up for dead.

Nagesh Singh, director (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran division) in the Union ministry of external affairs, told The Telegraph over the phone from Delhi that this was the first time since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008 that an Indian had been released from a Pakistani jail. “The release will go a long way in improving the bilateral relations,” Singh said.

Karim walked into India around 4pm yesterday after being handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah international checkpost, near Amritsar.

Utpal Roy, the secretary of NGO Diganta Welfare Society, which had taken up Karim’s cause after he was found in 2007, said the madarsa teacher had stayed at the Red Cross Bhavan in Amritsar last night.

“Our members have left for Calcutta by train. On Tuesday, he is expected to arrive at the Aluabari Road station (near Islampur). From there, we will take him to his recently widowed mother Gulshan Begum,” Roy, who is in Delhi to receive him, said. Karim’s elder brother Iqbal Hussain is accompanying him home.

In Betabi, Id seems to have arrived early. The villagers are particularly happy that Karim is returning in the holy month of Ramazan. “So far, I had been living with the knowledge that my son was at least alive in a Pakistani jail. Now he has been released during Ramazan. But my husband couldn’t see him,” said mother Gulshan, who has nine children.

Karim’s father Mohammad Tazuddin, who died of a heart attack this May, had yearned for his son till his last day, said Gulshan. But Karim is still unaware of his father’s death.

“Karim had strayed into Pakistani territory while playing football with the madarsa students. But 26/11 caused all talks with Pakistan to break down and we were feared we would not be able to bring him back,” Roy said.

He said Diganta had sent several appeals to the Indian and the Pakistani governments for his release.

Teacher out of Pak jail – at long, long last ?!!

Freed teacher Abdul Karim’s mother Gulshan Begum with her children at her home in Betabi on Sunday - how happy they must be ?!! (Mehedi Hedaytullah)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY MEHEDI HEDAYTULLAH

Islampur, Aug. 29: Abdul Karim yesterday walked out of a Rawalpindi prison and became the first Indian to be freed by Pakistan since the Mumbai terror attacks.

The 25-year-old Karim, who hails from a North Dinajpur village but taught in a Patiala madarsa, was handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah international checkpost.

Five years ago, Karim was caught by the Pakistani border guards when he strayed into no-man’s land at Patiala in Punjab while trying to retrieve a ball during a soccer match with the local boys.

Nagesh Singh, director, (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran division), ministry of external affairs, told The Telegraph over the phone from Delhi that this was the first time that an Indian had been released from a Pakistani jail after the Mumbai terror attack on November 26, 2008.

“This release will go a long way in improving the bilateral relations between the two nations. Our officials and senior BSF officers were present during the handing over yesterday,” Singh said. Karim walked across the border into India around 4pm yesterday.

The secretary of Diganta Welfare Society, Utpal Roy, who is camping in Delhi, said Karim was the Red Cross Bhavan in Amritsar last night. “He was handed over to us by the ministry of external affairs and our members have left Amritsar with him in a train for Calcutta. On Tuesday he will reach Aluabari Road station (the nearest railway halt near his house),” Roy said. Karim’s elder brother Iqbal Hussain is accompanying him home.

Diganta had taken up Karim’s cause after he was discovered by the International Red Cross in a Rawalpindi prison in 2007. Back then, Karim had sent a note to his parents through the Red Cross saying that he was alive. His family in Goalpokhor’s Betabi village, 90km from here, had given him up for dead.

In Betabi, everybody was rejoicing — all the more because Karim was coming back in the holy month of Ramazan. “So long I had been living with the knowledge that my son was at least alive in a Pakistani jail. Now he has been released in the month of Ramazan. But my husband could not see him,” said Gulshan Begum, who has nine children. Mohammad Tazuddin, who died of heart attack on May 6, had yearned for Karim till his last day, said Gulshan. Karim is still unaware of his father’s death.

“After we found out in 2007 that the youth was alive, we and the International Red Cross, were working to secure his release. But the 26/11 Mumbai attacks caused all talks with Pakistan to break down and we were very anxious that we would not be able to bring him back,” Roy said.

He said Diganta had been sending repeated appeals to both the Indian and the Pakistani governments about his release. “We are happy that it has finally happened, mainly because of improving relations between the two countries,” he said.

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