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Jailed in India: 13 years on, a mother still awaits her son

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HYDERABAD:For the last 13 years the elderly mother of Aashiq Ali Baloch, a Pakistani inmate languishing in an Indian jail, has been waiting to see her son return home.

HunzaNews May 19th, 2014

Aashiq’s father, Khameso Khan Baloch, died a few years ago nurturing the same hope. And now his mother, Pathani Baloch, is also advancing down her declining years.

“My last wish is to see him back home and to arrange his marriage,” says Pathani pointing to the trunk in which she has collected clothes and jewelry for her would-be daughter-in-law.

As tears roll down her cheeks, she recalls the day her son left for India. “Most of the family members were opposed to his visit due to the prevailing tension between India and Pakistan then. But Aashiq was very keen on touring that country and he compelled us to give him permission,” she tells The Express Tribune.

Aashiq was 22 years old when he went to India in 2001 on a visit visa. He travelled through the Wagah border to reach Mumbai where he stayed with his relatives, whom the family does not want to identify in view of their safety in India.

In January 2002 he was detained while touring Hyderabad Deccan, Andhra Pradesh state, and was charged with espionage.

Initially he was kept in Darjeeling prison in West Bengal while the criminal case registered against him proceeded in a Deccan court, according to his elder brother Tariq Baloch, a journalist working for a regional newspaper. The family claims that they were not even given a copy of the verdict.

“We couldn’t even provide him a defence lawyer. His case lasted for over four years till he was awarded life imprisonment in 2006,” says Tariq, regretting their inability to defend Aashiq in the court.

After pronouncement of the verdict, he added, his brother was shifted to Cherlapalli prison in Hyderabad Deccan, where he continues to serve his term. Since his arrest, the family has lost all verbal communication with Aashiq. They only infrequently exchange letters, which are first screened by the Indian security authorities.

According to a list of prisoners given by the Indian government in January this year, some 396 Pakistanis, including 257 civilians and 139 fishermen, are incarcerated in Indian jails.

“He lost prime of his youth languishing in Indian jails, far from family and joys of life. But I want him to be free now,” says his elder brother Muhammad Haroon Baloch.

The family’s hope for Aashiq’s freedom and, subsequent repatriation, hinges on the provision in the law which commutes the life term to 14 or 20 years’ imprisonment.

However, a November 2012 judgment by the bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Madan B Lokur interpreted the life sentence as an imprisonment for ‘entire life’. However, they left the power for remission to the government functionaries.

Haroon maintains that his brother has completed a cumulative period of 24 years and eight months, based on the day and night count of a day, in confinement since his arrest.

Express Tribune

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