The Forsaken Ones
The small village of Kaanwani rejoices, as its lost son returns home. Prayers and supplications are being offered by family and friends. Flowers are being showered on Dr. Tayyab Tahir, as he returns fromIndiaafter 4 years of imprisonment. It was while watching the flag ceremony at Wagha border, that Dr. Tayyab accidentally trespassed intoIndian Territory and was arrested immediately and taken to prison. But after enduring 4 years in an Indian prison, he was released this February.
But fate does not smile on everyone. Even today, 254 Pakistanis still lay in anguish in Indian prisons, faced away from trials for as long as 40 years. This came out as quite a shock to the Indian High Court last year, when it discovered that Pakistani nationals had been imprisoned without undergoing trial. Most of the prisoners are males and have ended up in prison when they inadvertently crossed the border into Indian Territory. The usual entry points into India are along the borders of Sindh,Punjab and Kashmir.
For years these people have been locked away in prison and exposed to the most atrocious treatment imaginable. They have long since lost their souls, hanging onto memories of their family and the hope that one day justice will find its way through the dark, cold walls of prison and they will return to their motherland. Each face in the prison tells a story. The Ludhiana jail shivers with the cries of a woman who, along with her 9 year old daughter has been imprisoned since 2002.She was pregnant when she was arrested and her daughter was born in the prison. Today her daughter is 9 years old and knows nothing of the world outside the prison walls.
Meanwhile, four old men sit in the corner of the jail in Punjab and talk about the 1965 war. They were young men when they were arrested from the Poonch district of India during the 1965 war, as they unintentionally crossed the border. It has been 47 years since they have seen the outside world. Generations have passed, but nothing ever changed for them. Others have passed away in jails without a trial. Their families here in Pakistan still wake up each morning in the hope that one day their loved ones would come back and their shattered worlds would be given back to them. But all that remains is nothing but a mere hope.
Nov 2011, the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan meet at the Regional Summit in Maldives. This issue of misaligned prisoners is highlighted during the talks. But, like always, it ends up as a mere exchange of words and gestures. No one but those who have lost their loved ones can feel the pain. Another day ends as the sun sets below the horizon and the prisoners are asked to go back to their cells. As the clock hits 10 pm, lights are switched off and the prisons, along with their hopes, are put to sleep.