It has been nineteen years since Dr Saiyyad Muhammad Khaleel Chishty stepped foot inside his home, embraced his family and slept peacefully on his bed. It has been nineteen long years.
These years have not only been long but also depressing and disturbing. Across the border in India, 77-year-old Dr Chishty, now bedridden, is in a prison hospital in Ajmer.
In Pakistan, Chishty's suffering has taken its toll on his family. His wife has lost her sense of hearing.
"No one can understand what we have gone through all these years and are still going through. No one can understand our pain," says Shoa Jawaid, Dr Chishty's daughter, talking to Aman ki Asha at their house in North Nazimabad, Karachi.
"He worked hard to raise a family of six children - one son (oldest, with engineering diploma), five daughters (one is a doctor, one is a Pharmacologist, two are graduates and myself an MBA in marketing). He educated us and built a house for us in Karachi and supported his younger brother in India as well," his other daughter, Amna Chishty, wrote to Aman ki Asha in an email (see box).
It was in 1992, that Dr Chishty, a retired professor (PhD from University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1968 in Public Health Virology) with a long and distinguished career as a university professor left Karachi to visit his ailing mother in Ajmer, India. Having a short-term visit visa, he planned to return immediately after spending some time with his mother. However, fate had other plans in store for him.
In April 1992, a feud between his brother's family and other relatives in Ajmer turned violent. One day, the opposing party attacked his brother's house (where Dr Chishty was staying), jumping onto the rooftop from the neighbouring house. Dr Chishty stayed downstairs, aware that as a Pakistani national, he could not afford to be caught up in a conflict. But when he heard that his nephews were injured, he rushed to the spot. Meanwhile, during the violence, a gun had gone off, accidentally killing one of the attackers, and the police had reached the spot.
When the opposing party lodged the FIR, they pressed murder charges against Dr Chishty and his three nephews.
"My father was innocent. Even the police present on the spot knew that he did not fight with anyone nor kill anyone. He was simply present at the wrong time at the wrong place," says Shoa Jawaid.
Like the rest of her family, she is convinced that he was implicated in a false case - a view shared by prominent Indian citizens who have taken up this case and are working to get Dr Chishty released (see accompanying story 'At this point we are afraid for his life').
And so the murder charges lodged way back in 1992 became the start of a miserable journey. Dr Chishty's passport was confiscated and he was forbidden from leaving the country. Though he was out on bail, he was virtually under house arrest with strict surveillance and limited communication with the outside world. The delay in hearing of the cases greatly agonised him.
"To get away from the place where he felt mocked on false charges, he obtained permission to move to my uncle's farms in Hatundi, a village outside Ajmer. Here he led a lonely life, with books and the radio as his only companions. The only time he got some comfort was when someone from our family was able to visit him after every six months," said Shoa Jawaid, her eyes filling up with tears.
"It may not be out of place to state in actual fact he is a hostage. Aspects of legality and delay in completion of the case remain questionable," wrote Rao Abid, coordinator of HRCP's Vulnerable Prisoners' Project, in a letter to Shahid Malik, Pakistan's High Commissioner in New Delhi at the time (reported by Marianna Baabar in The News in Nov 2008).
The last time Dr Chishty's wife met him was in June 2010, when she was able to spend a month with him. Shoa Jawaid last saw her father in 2008 - her visa application in August 2010 was rejected.
On January 31, 2011, the court sentenced Chishty and his nephews to 14 years of imprisonment in Ajmer State Prison. "We were all hopeful that whenever the court passed judgment, it would be in favour of our father. Not only was he innocent, but he is elderly and ailing. We were shocked and speechless when the verdict was announced," says Shoa Jawaid.
The family is now in touch with various Indian and Pakistani human rights activists and hopes that Dr Chishty will be released soon - and that no other family, on either side of the border, will have to suffer as they have.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
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