Efforts continue to help Pakistani schoolboy in Indian prison
By Asit Jolly
Lahore schoolboy Nauman Arshad was presented in the court (Judicial Magistrate III, Amritsar) on March 31 (See earlier report from Times of India, 'Not all who sneak across are terrorists', Aman ki Asha page, March 31).
On behalf of Nauman's family, advocate Asad Jamal in Lahore had dispatched two documents (NADRA certificate and BISE roll no. slip for grade nine exams, duly attested and notarised) showing his age (15) to Chandigarh-based lawyer Navkiran Singh, general secretary of Lawyers for Human Rights International (LFHRI). Mr Singh's associate VPS Bhatia confirmed to Mr Jamal over telephone that the documents had been submitted in court along with an application to transfer Arshad's case to Juvenile Justice Board (JJB). The case was adjourned to 9th April without further proceeding.
Several Indian lawyers, journalists and activists are trying to help Nauman and other Pakistani boys in Indian prison. Some news reports below.
'Story of a Lahore schoolboy in custody'
Thursday, Apr 01, 2010
By Sarabjit Pandher
Nauman Arshad's plea to the Amritsar court to be allowed to call up his family was rejected
AMRITSAR: Nauman Arshad is still in his school uniform - a light blue shirt and dark trousers - and should be appearing for his Class 9 examinations right now.
Instead, the 14-year-old Pakistani boy is in handcuffs, appearing before Amritsar's Chief Judicial Magistrate on charges of being an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agent.
On Wednesday, his judicial remand was extended by another 10 days. On April 9, the court will hear his request for a bone density test to prove his age. Nauman wants to be transferred from the Amritsar Central Jail to the Juvenile Home.
The boy's journey from the Government Comprehensive Higher Secondary School for Boys in Lahore to the Amritsar district courts began over two months ago, on January 12.
Speaking to The Hindu in the court complex, Nauman explained how he boarded a bus from Lahore to the Wagah border out of curiosity, since he had always had a "desire to see what the Indian border actually looked like." While wandering around inspecting the border pillars, he was apprehended by a BSF patrol.
Nauman claims that the BSF interrogated him thoroughly, while the Punjab Police subjected him to "third degree" torture.
The boy has been booked under Section 3 of the Indian Passports Act and Section 14 of the Foreigners' Act. While some interrogators asked about his supposed links with the Taliban, others probed the possibility of him being a suicide bomber.
Apart from a wrist watch and a 10-rupee note in Pakistani currency, Nauman was also carrying 150 gm of almonds in his pocket.
This raised suspicions among his interrogators, who were convinced that he was trained in Peshawar along with Ajmal Kasab, chief suspect in the Mumbai attacks case. The 26/11 terrorists had brought bags of dried fruit to feed themselves during the siege.
This is not the first case of a truant Pakistani schoolboy being caught in India. The day after Nauman was arrested, 12-year-old Ateeq was caught illegally crossing into India on the Samjhauta Express.
After The Hindu wrote about his case, Ateeq is now safely back home in Lahore, giving Nauman some hope that his case will also be settled similarly. He said an emissary of the Pakistan High Commission in India recently visited him and assured speedy procedures for his release.
Nauman pleaded with the court to be allowed to call up his family. His request was rejected on the grounds that no such provisions are available.
"I just want to communicate with my mother and elder brother. Why cannot I be allowed?" he said.
Nauman's father Ramzan Arshad died nearly six years ago, according to documents that his advocate V.P.S. Bhatia, a member of the Lawyers for Human Rights International, submitted to the court to establish his juvenile status and place of residence. The certificate issued by the school indicates that Nauman last attended classes on January 11.
The youngest of three siblings, Nauman shares his interest in the computer and internet and how much he misses chatting with his friends and sharing "interesting websites."
Despite persistent family pressure to study biology and become a doctor, he is more interested in a career in computer technology.
Nauman said he saw India as a fascinating "land of opportunities," and his stint in an Indian jail does not seem to have deterred that interest.
"I would return to see it after I grow up and get proper travel documents," he asserted.
- The Hindu, front page
'Appeal in HC for Pak boy's release'
Friday, April 2, 2010
By Vikas Kahol in Chandigarh
The lawyers and human rights activists fighting for the release of Nauman Arshad, a Pakistani teenager who had strayed into India, will file a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the withdrawal of the cases against him.
The Lawyers for Human Rights International (LFHRI) said the boy was innocent and that the police could not substantiate their claim that he was an ISI agent.
Navkiran Singh, the general secretary of LFHRI, said Arshad was in school uniform at the time of his arrest. He was wearing a wrist watch and carrying a Rs 10-Pakistani currency note and 150 gm almonds in his pocket.
"We will move the court seeking directions to the government for the withdrawal of the case against the boy. He was booked for violating the Indian Passports Act and the Foreigners' Act," Singh said.
"His case will come up for hearing on April 9. His mother has sent me the evidence that he is a juvenile. We will produce these documents in the court for shifting his case to the Juvenile Justice Board," Singh said. Arshad is currently in judicial custody.
'Indian lawyers campaign for Pak boy release'
Sunday, 28 March 2010
By Asit Jolly
CHANDIGARH, March 28: Protesting the "innocence" of a 16-year-old Pakistani boy who was labelled a fidayeen and jailed in Amritsar in January, a Chandigarh-based lawyers' collective has initiated a campaign to liberate the young prisoner and facilitate his repatriation.
The Lawyers for Human Rights International, which has represented dozens of people "incorrectly" branded as terrorists in past years, will arrange free legal aid to Mohammed Noman Arshad to help establish his true age, nationality and other antecedents. The group, which is already in touch with the boy's family in Lahore, hopes to submit requisite documentation when Arshad is produced before Amritsar's chief judicial magistrate on Tuesday.
A Border Security Force patrol intercepted the teenager loitering close to the electrified security fence. Even though he possessed nothing other than a school chemistry textbook and Rs 10 in Indian currency, BSF officials claimed he was a highly-motivated suicide bomber and had "confessed" to having received training at a pro-Taliban madrasa in Pakistan's Punjab province.
Officials claimed Arshad was trained at terror camps at Peshawar and Okhara, the very place where the lone surviving Mumbai terror strike perpetrator Ajmal Kasab comes from But LHRI's lawyers, who are now in regular telephonic contact with Arshad's mother Tahira Anwar and maternal uncle Asif (his father Mohammed Ramzan died some years ago), have put together a completely different version of the "facts".
"I cannot tell you how my son landed up in India. We haven't seen him since he left for school on January 11," the anxious mother told LRI's general secretary, Navkiran Singh. She discovered the boy was missing when he failed to return home and inquiries revealed he had never made it to school that morning. Later the family learnt of their boy's arrest and incarceration in India from a news story in an Urdu daily published from Lahore.
According to her, Arshad is a Class 9 student at the Government Boys' Comprehensive Higher Secondary School, Ghorey Shah Road, Lahore, where he has had a fairly consistent academic record. He scored straight A's in mathematics and Arabic in his last school board exams. LHRI representatives are now in possession of documents proving Arshad is a minor.
- The Asian Age
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