Homecoming: After 20 years, Dr Chishty finally crosses border

Published: May 16, 2012

It took 82-year-old Dr Chishty two decades to cross the Pakistan-India border. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD JAVED / EXPRESS

Chishti was received by Federal Minister of Interior Rehman Malik at the air port. PHOTO: EXPRESS/MOHAMMAD JAVAID It took 82-year-old Dr Chishty two decades to cross the Pakistan-India border. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD JAVED / EXPRESS
ISLAMABAD: 

It was a historic day for Pakistan-India relations, and perhaps a symbol of hope for the hundreds of prisoners languishing on both sides of the border indefinitely – scenes of jubilation were witnessed at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad and Dr Khalil Chisty’s home in Karachi as he finally crossed the border.

After twenty years of incarceration in Rajasthan’s Ajmer Jail, Dr Chishty arrived in Pakistan from India late Tuesday night. The 82-year-old virologist was brought back in a special plane sent by President Asif Ali Zardari.

While not completely free, Dr Chishty will remain in Pakistan until his November 1, 2012 hearing in the Indian Supreme Court. He was welcomed at the airport by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Port and Shipping Minister Babar Ghauri at 11:25pm, from where he was driven in a Mercedes car to the President House with official protocol. Local Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders and activists showered rose petals on him.

President Zardari had discussed Dr Chishty’s case with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to Ajmer.

Chishty was recently released from Ajmer Jail after being sentenced to a life imprisonment term in a murder case. The Indian SC granted bail on April 9 to the virologist and allowed him to visit Pakistan for a temporary stay on May 10.

“I am happy that I am going to my homeland to meet my family and friends. I would like to offer a thanksgiving prayer as soon as I reach the airport and then I will go to my home,” he told reporters at Jaipur railway station.

In Karachi, his family was seen waiting for his arrival, anxious and excited in a house decorated with lights in celebration. While talking to a private news channel, his daughter, Farah, said “It is a miracle. We have been waiting since morning for his return and now we will spend the whole night waiting for his arrival tomorrow. We have made his favourite food.” His grandchildren, several of whom he has never seen, appeared just as eager to meet their grandfather.

A special leave petition against Dr Chishty’s conviction is pending in the Indian Supreme Court while a clemency petition is pending before the Rajasthan governor.

The octogenarian was visiting his ailing mother in Ajmer in 1992 when he got embroiled into a family feud that led to the death of one of his relatives. He has been in Ajmer since, incarcerated at his ancestral home for eighteen years before being jailed following his conviction in January last year.

The teary-eyed Pakistani added that he would also go to Lahore to meet Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national facing a death sentence on charges of involvement in bomb blasts in Pakistan. Sarabjit has been languishing in prison in Lahore for the last 22 years. Diplomatic efforts are on to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment.

Dr Chishty completed his PhD from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1968 in Public Health Virology. “Inasmuch as we have posted the appeal for final disposal on 20th November, 2012, we permit him to visit his country, namely, Pakistan and return back to India positively by 1st November, 2012. As soon as he reaches his native country he has to surrender his passport with the Indian High Commission, Islamabad,” the Indian SC said in its verdict on the case.

Talking to media earlier on Tuesday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said President Zardari played a pivotal role in the release of Dr Chishty during his recent visit to India. “President Zardari has been very kind to send his plane to New Delhi on the request of the Indian government to bring back Dr Chishty home,” he emphasised. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT IN KARACHI)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • Saqibtahir
    May 16, 2012 - 4:58AM

    Kudos for President Zardari.

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  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    May 16, 2012 - 5:13AM

    Only in Pakistan a convicted nurder is recieved by the top law and order official. Sorry I gotta go to puke.

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  • Kini
    May 16, 2012 - 5:52AM

    If I had two choices:
    1) Be received by Rehman Malik
    2) Go back to jail

    I would go back to jail.

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  • Concern1
    May 16, 2012 - 6:36AM

    The Plane belongs to the People Of Pakistan by whose tax money it has been bought its not Zardaris personnal property

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  • Rao
    May 16, 2012 - 7:27AM

    Zardari Sahib, at least, has doen a great job by bringning an old Pakistani citizens.

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  • Ammara
    May 16, 2012 - 7:30AM

    Welcome home! We will work for Sarabjit’s return too!

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  • Ashraf P
    May 16, 2012 - 8:18AM

    Reminds me of the way Gadhafi welcomed the homecoming of the mass killer convicted of the Lockbie bombing. This man is a convicted murderer. Can you imagine an Indian minister receiving a convicted killer and keeping his ministry?

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  • Atif Razzaq
    May 16, 2012 - 8:53AM

    Now Zardari is palying the political game for the next election

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  • Malatesh
    May 16, 2012 - 8:54AM

    Why so much hospitality for this criminal in Pakistan?

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  • jagjit sidhoo
    May 16, 2012 - 9:09AM

    @Concern1: Much as i welcome his release, he is a old man who has served a 20yr jail term,sending the presidents plane to bring him back is really going overboard.He had committed a murder not won the Nobel peace prize.We must look in other areas for heroes, my hero in Pakistan is Abdul Sitar Edhi.

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  • Shyam
    May 16, 2012 - 9:19AM

    Another national hero welcomed by the President of Pakistan. Other national heroes include Hafeez Sayeed, Bin Laden (even if he was of arab origin), AQ Khan, and Musharraf for some

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  • H.A. Khan
    May 16, 2012 - 9:23AM

    Did he not kill someone due to property dispute in Ajmeer?.
    Was he not convicted by the court for this?
    And if the above is true, why was a Presidential plane sent to receive him?

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  • anand singh
    May 16, 2012 - 9:29AM

    I think the old man should be allowed to stay on in Pakistan. He has suffered enough.

    As regards being recieved by a minister etc, its all playing for the gallery and we needn’t read too much into it.

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  • narinder
    May 16, 2012 - 9:32AM

    now zardari should think about sarabjit singh well wishes for both brotherly countries people

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  • Haider H
    May 16, 2012 - 9:42AM

    At least a good deed by Zardari+Malik. Although I’m not a PPP supporter at all, I like this gesture

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  • Khalq e Khuda
    May 16, 2012 - 9:44AM

    @Its (still) Econonmy Stupid:

    He was convicted of manslaughter not murder; understand the difference! On the other hand he served Pakistan well by teaching thousands of students and being Pakistan’s first virologist.

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  • May 16, 2012 - 10:39AM

    wellcome to your homeland pakistan.[HI-BBZF]Recommend

  • Davidl
    May 16, 2012 - 11:19AM

    He has gone so much old.. he can’t even sit in the car with his own help.Indians should compensate this old man.They should compensate him for the years for which they kept him in the jail.He surely cant work anymore.

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  • anand singh
    May 16, 2012 - 12:40PM

    @ Davidl

    Compensate him for what ?

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  • let there be peace
    May 16, 2012 - 12:52PM

    Zardari tries to improve ties between India and Pakistan with whatever little authority he has. This is just a humanitarian gesture. No need to read too much into it.

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  • Ajamal
    May 16, 2012 - 2:10PM

    A PhD Virologist going to India to commit a murder???????

    He has been a victim of system that allows criminals (sitting in Lok Sabha and many State assemblies) get away by hiring well connected lawyers (read cronies), and for the people like Dr Chisty to spend 20 years in jail for crime of others.

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  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    May 16, 2012 - 2:35PM

    @Khalq e Khuda:
    I see a parallel between the PAN AM bomber’s welcome in Libya and Dr Chisti. He made mistake but at the end of the day a beautiful life was lost due to his mistake. He is entitle to go home and move on with his life. But giving welcome is in bad taste out of respect to the victim and his family. You are celebrating a life of a convict and not the victim. It is a fine line in human decency and it is hard to comprehand. He is not hero he is just a Phd in a subject who killed someone and served his time period.

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  • Rehman
    May 16, 2012 - 3:02PM

    This article is not about Dr Chisti, it is about thousands of prisoners langushing in jails of both countries some even from 1971 war. I dont know if Dr Chisti committed murder or not (that can be discussed somewhere else) but all I am saying is that India showed a big heart and acted very responsibly by releasing this old man and now its our turn to reciprocate.

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  • Davidl
    May 16, 2012 - 4:14PM

    @anand singh :- He has served his half life 20 to 25 years in Indian jails for what he hasn’t done.He was behind the bars for nothing.Your Government should compensate his whole family.20 years is something.

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  • mustafa
    May 16, 2012 - 4:17PM

    Why Dr Chisti could not travel on a commercial air line and who paid for the private plane I think it was the Pakistan tax payer!

    Amazing in the times of austerity.

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  • G. Din
    May 16, 2012 - 4:41PM

    @jagjit sidhoo:
    Completely agree with your comment. Those who call him a “criminal” must know he is an eminent scientist in his own right. We should be mindful of the fact that we are all human and therefore fallible. We are all given to base passions at rare moments and it is in such a moment he committed a reprehensible act -murder of another human being. Although we do not tire of saying how Lady Justice is blind, in realty it is a cop-out because as fallible human beings we must make allowances for the same fallibility in our fellow human beings and not hand out sentences like blind robots. It is no one’s case that there should be no accountability nor that the sentence he was handed was unjust. But, now that the price has been paid (Supreme Court of India will be the judge of that), we should show some grace in not hitting the man when he is down and cannot defend himself in ways more than one!

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  • May 16, 2012 - 4:44PM

    @Ajamal:

    He did not spend 20 years in jail. he spent 18 years in his ancestral home in ajmer and only after the courts verdict he was sent to jail last year.

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  • Sobriquet
    May 16, 2012 - 4:59PM

    @Davidl:
    @Kini:
    @Khalq e Khuda:
    For the majority of the time Khalil Chisty was held under house arrest (in his paternal home) and not in a jail.

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  • Singh
    May 16, 2012 - 6:41PM

    @Davidl:
    Read the news first
    He has been in Ajmer since, incarcerated at his ancestral home for eighteen years before being jailed following his conviction in January last year.
    He was on bail for 18 year & fighting case in court.
    How much Pakistan govt compensate to each convict?
    Try to use god gifted brain.

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  • anand singh
    May 16, 2012 - 8:29PM

    @ Davidl

    Firstly, he spent the majority of time in his ancestral house and NOT behind bars.

    Secondly, how are you so sure that he didn’t do what he is charged for ?

    What compensation does he need and for what ???

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  • YA
    May 16, 2012 - 9:41PM

    @mustafa: Pakistanis dont pay any tax if they did the country wont be the way it is

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  • YA
    May 16, 2012 - 9:51PM

    @anand singh: Supreme Court of India is not convinced that he is guilt hence they allowed the petition. There is no obligation on the SC to accept such cases. What happens if he is exonerated once the petition is heard in November. I think we should not put the cart before the donkey, lets see what the SC has to say… When people like retired SC justice Katju comment and say that he was implicated because he was a Pakistani, maybe we should think a bit before we judge.

    I dont know if you know that Dr. Chishty was sitting at home when the mod attacked and one of the attacker got shot. and Dr. Chishty was not the one who did the shooting, the person who did has admitted to itin the media…

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  • Davidl
    May 17, 2012 - 3:22PM

    @Singh

    For heaven’s sake don’t tell me that Indian GOV. is so nice with Pakistani convicts.Even his name was abused in your country courts.He was used to be called kaliq pakistani.Chishti was sentenced to life imprisonment for the death of a person in a brawl with him when he was visiting Ajmer in April 1992. He was granted bail by the apex court on April 9 which asked him to make a separate plea for permission to visit Pakistan.
    Your Government isn’t that nice dude.He was in jail for 20 years,your GOV. has charged the innocent man for nothing.Your GOV. now in the end when his both feet are in grave released him and showed that you have sympathy for us Pakistanies.If your GOV. cannot compensate him then try give him his 20 years jawani back.

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  • YA
    May 17, 2012 - 6:22PM

    @ Davidl, I dont know why you are harping on the Indian government at this time, we dont have a shining record ourselves. This is a happy moment please celebrate it. It would be nice if we could start on common ground rather than voicing and counting our differences endlessly.

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  • Davidl
    May 17, 2012 - 8:44PM

    I am talking about the compensation.. did you even see him with your naked eyes? I was in the airport the day he arrived,he was so much weak,he couldn’t even walk nor couldn’t even sit the in car..look what did they do with him in these 20 years.He looks like 120 years old.I don’t personally give a damn about our and their Gov.I am talking about the compensation which should be atleast given her to his wife.I am done with this issue.

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  • Cynical
    May 18, 2012 - 12:51AM

    @Davidl

    Please stop dishing out incohorent comments.Are talking through your head?
    There are eyewitnesses of the crime he committed.
    That he is old, has been freed on bail that’s fine.But to treat him as some kind of messiah is beyond belief.

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  • musheir
    May 18, 2012 - 3:37AM

    my understanding is it was a manslaughter so it’s a lesser crime meaning he had no intention to kill but it happened by accident in a brawl.

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