A Pakistani woman along with her minor daughter have arrived to their homeland after spending four years in an Indian jail for no fault of hers.
Indian authorities handed over Sumaira Rehman and her daughter Sana Fatima, 4, to Pakistani authorities at the Wagah border on Saturday.
Pakistani High Commission officials accompanied Sumaira from Bangalore to the Wagah border. It will take another four days for Sumaira Rehman to fulfill all the legal requirements and to complete immigration processes.
“After this, she will be free to go wherever she wants,” said Senator Irfan Siddique, who raised Sumaira’s issue in the Pakistani Senate and was keeping track of her whereabouts since then.
He raised the issue in the Senate after the Ministry of Interior refused to issue a certificate of her nationality on the request of the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.
“As far as I know, nobody from Sumaira’s family was present at the Wagah border to receive her,” Senator Siddique said.
Sumaira was settled in Qatar in 2017 when she married an Indian, Muhammad Shahab, against the consent of her parents. Shahab took her to India where the couple settled. After her visa expired, she was sent to jail along with her husband. Later, Indian authorities released her husband but kept her in jail, where she gave birth to a baby girl.
In 2018, the Pakistani High Commission was given consular access to Sumaira. The commission, after meeting her, wrote a letter to the Interior Ministry in Islamabad to confirm her nationality.
Sumaira spent four years in Indian jail and paid one million in Indian rupees to the Indian government as a fine, which she collected through donations. Later, Indian authorities put her in a custodial centre.
An Indian human rights lawyer, Sohana Baswapatna, took up her case and struggled within the Indian legal system for her release from the custodial center.
After Sumaira’s story appeared in BBC Urdu Service, Senator Siddique raised her issue in the Pakistani Senate.
On February 17 this year, Senator Siddique brought her plight to the notice of Pakistani Upper House and pointed out that Pakistani authorities appeared helpless in her case. The same evening Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said in a statement that the Pakistani Interior Ministry had issued a certificate of nationality to Sumaira.
Meanwhile, Senator Siddique remained in constant touch with the Pakistani Foreign Office, Indian High Commission in Islamabad, Indian human rights lawyer who was working on the case and Asma Jehangir Legal Aid Centre in Lahore.
“A week ago, Indian High Commission in Islamabad informed Senator Siddique that Sumaira and her daughter would be handed over to Pakistani authorities at Wagha on March 26,” said Senator Siddique.
He told media that he had talked to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and he had assured him that he would provide all assistance in order to help Sumaira Rehman settle down in Pakistan.
He said that the Interior Ministry officials who ignored the case of Sumaira should be held accountable.