Long road home

Published: May 17, 2012

After 20 years, eminent virologist Dr Khalil Chishty has finally returned to Pakistan. Dr Chishty’s family was settled in India at the time of Partition but he had decided to stay on in Karachi where he was a student. In 1992, he undertook a trip to Jaipur to meet his ailing mother. Soon after his arrival in India, Dr Chishty got embroiled in a family feud which resulted in the death of a family member. He ended up behind bars and remained there for a fearfully long time before being convicted of murder charges awarded to him in January last year.

Fortunately, human rights groups in India petitioned for his release, on the grounds of both his health and age, being 82 years old. The Indian Supreme Court granted bail in April this year. His case was also pleaded by President Asif Ali Zardari during his recent visit to Ajmer Sharif, followed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh taking due notice. Even though it took two decades, humanity eventually prevailed, with Dr Chishty being granted permission by the Indian Supreme Court to return home till the date of his next hearing in November this year.

Dr Chishty was received with official protocol in Islamabad, where the president’s plane was used to fly him across the border. While delight reigns in the Chishty household, other unfortunate Indians and Pakistanis held in jails of either country continue to suffer. Dr Chishty has said he will be visiting one such Indian national, Sarabjit Singh, who has served 22 years in a Pakistani jail. Diplomatic efforts are going on for his sentence to be reduced to life imprisonment. Such proactive measures by the governments of both India and Pakistan indicate that we may be witness to more cordial and healthy relations between the two neighbours in the future and this comes as a pleasant change to the otherwise hostile ties that have been adopted in the past. The move is also a symbol of hope for those prisoners who await trial in either country.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.

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