One wintry night in Dec 2017, around midnight, while I was fast asleep, my mobile rang, and there was a call from an unknown mobile number with the sounds of a lady crying. I was confused, and my wife was upset and suspicious over the call. With a little tiff, we had an uneasy sleep. Early the following day, I dialled the same number with my wife around, and the lady introduced herself as Mrs Fauzia N Ansari, a lecturer at a junior college and her husband Nihal Ansari, a retired banker, both in Mumbai. Their elder son Khalid Ansari was a practising oral dental surgeon. But for over five years, they have not seen their second son Hamid Ansari, a tall, handsome IT engineer with an MBA degree. Hamid had also served as Rotary President under 30 years of age and had been associated with the UN as a volunteer member.
On November 12, 2012, Hamid Ansari entered Pakistan via Afghanistan without proper documentation in an attempt to assist and marry a Facebook friend who was in despair. By Jan 2016, he went missing for three and a half years, and it transpired that Hamid Ansari was in the custody of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence.
In Feb 2016, a military court awarded Hamid Ansari three years of rigorous imprisonment and sent him to Central Jail Peshawar. He was questioned and subjected to physical beatings and torture whenever there was tension between India and Pakistan.
The desperate mother, Fauzia Ansari, had done all she could to get her son back but to no avail. She had written letters and personally met the Minister of External Affairs in Delhi, besides other senior officials, Pakistan High Commission, NHRC, UN, and PMO, running from pillar to post, leaving no stone unturned. Still, her despair and wait remained unanswered prayers. Since I was heavily involved in securing the release of our 54 prisoners of war (POWs) held in Pakistani prisons since the 1971 War, a veteran army contact advised her to contact me for her son’s freedom.
Hamid was in Facebook contact with some people in Pakistan — Attaur Rahman, Saba Khan, Abdulla Zaid Khatak, Humaira Hanif, Dr Shazia Khan, and a girl from Kohat who told him she was a victim of the social evil, Vani – a custom in Pakistan where girls, often minors, are given in marriage or servitude to an aggrieved family as compensation to end disputes, often murder, forcing her into marriage following a Jirga (tribal council) decision to compensate for some family rivalry as reported in the Daily Express dated May 22, 2012. She shared her story with Hamid, who decided to go across and help her and perhaps marry her as on Facebook, they had become intimate friends.
Given the difficulties obtaining a visa and with time running short, some of his Facebook friends suggested he cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan. This he accordingly did, without proper documents, on November 12, 2012.
These facts came to light after he disappeared and his parents pieced together information from his Facebook account, which was still open on his computer at home. It should also be noted that, except for Attaur Rahman, the identities of the other Pakistanis on Hamid’s Facebook page, including the female from Kohat, have not been verified. Hamid initially stayed with Attaur Rehman for two days, then shifted to Hotel Palwasha in Kohat on November 14, 2012. At around midnight, within an hour of his checking in, the local police picked him up.
There was no news about Hamid for over three years after that. Finally, in response to a habeas corpus petition filed in Peshawar High Court, the honourable court on January 13, 2016, declared that ‘as per the report submitted by DAG, Hamid Ansari was in the custody of Military of Pakistan.’
A thorough investigation found that he was not an Indian spy but had only illegally crossed into Pakistan with fake documents under a false name.
On February 10, 2016, a military court awarded him rigorous three-year imprisonment and sent him to Central Jail Peshawar. He completed his sentence on December 16, 2018, not considering the three and a half years he spent in custody as a missing person.
Having been shifted to Mardan prison, Hamid has appealed to be moved back to Peshawar for better access to his lawyers. He was not provided consular access, allowed to talk to his parents, or granted a visa to meet him.
In Nov 2016, the Peshawar High Court disposed of a petition to release him because he was imprisoned under a military court decision, and it was the prerogative of the Government of Pakistan to release Hamid on humanitarian grounds. I wrote many pieces in ‘Aman Ki Asha’ edited by Beena Sarwar, a Pakistani journalist, artist and filmmaker and activist on gender, media and peace issues and living in Boston to develop peace between India and Pakistan and contacted human rights activists in Pakistan, the US and the UK pleading that he be released in the holy month of Ramzan to end the suffering of his desperate parents. Finally, on December 18, 2018, he was released after spending around 6 ½ years in Pakistani jails crossing the Attari-Wagah border to reach India. ‘Yes’, it was great news for Hamid, his parents, friends, human rights activists, and Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) tirelessly working for his release.
PUBG love story of Seema from Karachi
Seema Haider from Karachi, unlike Hamid Ansari, after PM Modi and floods in Delhi, is much in the Indian news and media coverage like the new romantic film launch of Shah Rukh Khan, notwithstanding numerous social, religious, financial and even national security implications. Like the Facebook intimacy between Ansari from Mumbai and Kohat girl in Pakistani where both were Muslims, Seema, a Muslim married and mother of 4 from Karachi and came in contact with a much younger Hindu boy in Greater Noida while playing the online gaming platform PUBG in 2019. Like the Facebook intimacy between Ansari from Mumbai and Kohat girl in Pakistani where both were Muslims, Seema, a Muslim married and mother of 4 from Karachi She, came in contact with a much younger Hindu boy in Greater Noida while playing online gaming platform PUBG in 2019. While media hype has given undue publicity, it is most intriguing how belonging to a lower middle-class Pakistani family who studied up to class 5, whose husband is working in Saudi Arabia, without talaq and passport /visa, entered India with four kids flying from Pakistan via Dubai to Nepal where her man in love escorted her to Greater Noida and married her too. It is unbelievable that in 4 days, she could speak Hindi, follow the Hindu religion and speak smattering English. Could there be honey trapping and security angle with this episode too?
Points to Ponder
Social media has completely gripped our public and private life, and there are NO checks at any level. We need to worry our citizens, especially younger generations, are falling prey to it.
While Hamid Ansari reportedly became friendly with a Pakistani girl on social media and reached Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to save her from a forced marriage by marrying her, Seema Haider similarly reaches Greater Noida, converts and marries her love Sachin and is accepted by the Hindu family. Can both incidents be clubbed as honey trapping?
Like Hamid, should Seema not be taken in police custody, thoroughly vetted by police IB, R&AW and then decided she should be deported or given Indian citizenship? While the erstwhile Pakistani family and relatives of Seema have ostracised her for being in a relationship with an Indian man from the Hindu community, if deported back to Pakistan with her four children, she may be killed or tortured immensely.
Being a Pakistani citizen entering India illegally, it is intriguing how she got her Aadhar card made and who helped her and Sachin accomplish their controversial, unauthorised and diplomatically illegal mission against our national security.
We must ascertain through proper debriefing and interrogation by experts, Narco-test SIMs checking used by her in Pakistan, Dubai, Nepal, and now in India to know whether she is ISI planted sleeper or a genuine lady in love with an Indian boy from an economically weaker section of the society.
There could be many similar incidents in other countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Myanmar or Sri Lanka. What happens on a similar issue, say with China?
While many Hindu girls willingly marry Muslim men while many are forcibly married, the Muslim girl converting and marrying a Hindu boy is not acceptable to Muslim fundamentalists upsetting our secular credentials.
While no one knew about Hamid Ansari in India or Pakistan, Seema’s episode has led to attacks on Hindu temples and properties in Karachi and other places in Pakistan that may adversely affect already deteriorated relations between India and Pakistan.