LAHORE: Allah Ditta cannot tell where he comes from. To any question asked, the mentally challenged man released from Kot Bhalwal Central Jail in Indian Kashmir, just says “Ditta”.
In his sixties now, Ditta was one of three prisoners released by Indian authorities on Thursday. Edhi, the country’s largest charity, is trying to trace his family and that of another mentally challenged prisoner, Shaukat Ali. Ali knows only one thing about his background: “My home is in Mandi Ahmadabad in District Okara.”
The third prisoner, Muhammad Nabeel, says he was given an 18-month sentence, but was released after four years. There are around 30 Pakistanis in Kot Bhalwal jail, he says, adding that 20 of them have completed their sentence.
Nabeel, who was handed over to Edhi Home in Gulberg, Lahore, told The Express Tribune there is one Pakistani woman in the jail too. “Several Pakistanis who have completed their sentence have been languishing in Bhalwal jail for years, but no one has so far forwarded their case to authorities concerned,” he says. Most Pakistani prisoners are detained under the Public Safety Act and when they complete their sentence they are shifted to some other jail, he adds.
Four years ago, Nabeel mistakenly crossed the border in Azad Kashmir. “I was cutting wood at the Pakistani side of the border when officers from the Indian Border Security force asked me to pick up some wood lying near the Line of Control (a de facto border between India and Pakistan). When I went near the border they arrested me and another person who was accompanying me.”
(Read: Tales from the LoC, Divided at home)
Nabeel served his sentence in Punch Jail and was later shifted to Kot Bhalwal. “By the time many people are released they have lost their senses. I am lucky I got out in four years.”
“We...did not know which jail he was in,” said Muhammad Tahseeb, Nabeel’s brother who came to take his brother home on Friday.
In India, Dr Khaleel Chishty, is still waiting to be released on humanitarian grounds. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Chisty’s grandson, Syed Ali Ghalib Chishty said: “A 14-year sentence after a trial of 19 years...is inhuman. I appeal to all Indian ...friends...to consider his case and release him.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.