His first words, as soon as Dr Khalil Chishti was taken in an ambulance from a local hospital to Ajmer’s Dak Bungalow last month after getting bail, were:
“Please send me home as soon as possible.”
His wish has been granted after 18 years.
The Indian Supreme Court on “compassionate grounds” has permitted Dr Chishti to return to Pakistan on the condition that he comes back to India on November 1.
The court announced that it will hear Dr Chisti’s appeal against conviction in a murder case on November 20 and directed him to return to India positively on November 1.
Once he is back home, Dr Chishti has been instructed to deposit his passport with the Indian consulate in Karachi.(Ironically, the consulate has been closed for more than 10 years) Before he leaves India, he will have to post a bail bond amounting to Indian Rs500,000.
Initially, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Mohan Parasaran had insisted that Dr Chishti’s local contacts in India should give a surety on his behalf to secure his presence during the appeal proceedings. However, the Indian Supreme Court took no cognisance of his argument.
Reports from Ajmer revealed that Dr Chishti was overjoyed after the announcement and asked his immediate family to start packing his belongings so that he could return home.
After a prolonged trial that stretched for almost 18 years, Dr Chishti was held guilty in a murder case and was awarded life sentence on January 31 last year by a sessions court in Ajmer. Dr Chishti was sentenced for killing a man during a brawl in Ajmer in April 1992. He was on a pilgrimage to the shrine of famous Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. He has not been allowed to travel back to Pakistan since then.
After an appeal made by Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, who wrote for clemency to Dr Chishti to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the government quickly swung into action and created the conditions for Chishti’s release on bail.
Earlier, when he was released from Ajmer jail on bail in April, Dr Chishti had said that he would go to the ‘dargah’ of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti for thanking him and would also pray for the release of Sarabjit Singh whose mercy petition is pending before President Asif Ali Zardari.
“Like me, he (Sarabjit) should also believe in God who will take care of him. He should also take the legal recourse like I did,” Dr Chishti said.
When asked by a reporter how he felt after his release, he quipped and replied, “Only if you allow me to go home and allow me to feel anything.”
Though the rigours of jail life and bad health were quite visible on the Pakistani scientist’s face, it hardly seemed to have dampened his sense of humour.
Dr Chishti is likely to seek his lawyers’ help in arranging the bail bond.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2012.