After a long wait, the Merchant Vessel Suez finally reached the shores of Karachi on Thursday evening.
The 22-member crew of the Merchant Vessel Suez (MVS), including four Pakistani nationals who had been taken hostage by Somali pirates for more than 10 months, reached aboard Pakistan Navy’s ship PNS Zulfiqar at the Naval Dockyard here. Six Indians, 11 Egyptians and one Sri Lankan national were also among the crew.
Captain of the captured vessel, Wasi Hasan, who was the first man to disembark from the PNS Zulfiqar, immediately embraced his 11-year-old daughter Laila with tears in his eyes. Laila had been part of a large media campaign to collect donations to pay for her father’s ransom.
Apart from the physical pain, the emotional torture of not seeing my family for so long had made the entire episode unbearable, Hasan told the media.
Another sailor, Syed Alam, immediately kissed the ground on touching the soil of his country. He described the ordeal at the hands of Somali pirates as inhumane. “Look at my teeth, they’re all gone,” he said as he described the torture he went through at the hands of the “drunk” pirates.
Indian national Sachin, who hails from Mumbai, was all smiles. “Before this experience, I hardly realised what freedom really meant,” he said, adding that it was the happiest moment of his life. He recalled his hard days aboard the MVS, when pirates forced the hostages to survive on seawater for two months.
Another Indian national NK Sharma, who spoke in chaste Urdu, thanked the entire Pakistani nation for making sincere efforts to set the crew free. He said he was at a loss for words to describe his gratitude. Sharma said he was well taken care of by the PNS Babur crew who came to the rescue of the abducted men. “I was born and brought up in India. But today, standing here on Pakistani soil, I feel like I’ve been born again,” he said.
Egyptian nationals Mohammad Jahri and Ibrahim Wakil were both relieved that the entire ordeal had come to an end. They said there were days when the pirates did not give the hostages any food or water and repeatedly beat them up over petty things. “We were told to wait for the rain if we wanted drinking water,” said Ibrahim.
Sri Lankan national J H Laal Tisuri said he had lost sense of time and space after being in captivity for more than 10 months. He too recalled the horrors of Somali pirates and said they were made to work as their ‘slaves’.
Governor Ishratul Ibad, human rights campaigner Ansar Burney, Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) chief Ahmed Chinoy, senior navy officials, including Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Abbas Raza, and workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had come to receive the crew.
Speaking to the media at the Naval Dockyard, Ibad said he hoped that relations between India and Pakistan would improve after Pakistan’s efforts to release not only its own nationals, but also India’s.
Fleet commander Abbas termed ‘Operation Umeed-e-Nau’ a complete success. However, he declined to give details of the June 16 incident when the Indian Navy ship Godavari allegedly undertook dangerous manoeuvres that brushed the sides of the PNS Babur that was escorting MVS to Pakistan after being released by the pirates.
The crew was taken to the Governor House where an elaborate ceremony was held to celebrate their release. The Indian nationals were handed over to a representative of the Indian High Commission and were expected to fly to Lahore to travel to India via the Wagah border on Friday. The Egyptian nationals were received by their diplomats and were set to fly to Cairo from Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2011.
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