DHAKA: A Bangladeshi man who went missing 23 years ago has returned to his ancestral village and shocked his family who had long given him up for dead.
Moslemuddin Sarkar, who had been missing since 1989, returned home on Tuesday with help from the International Committee of the Red Cross after spending 15 years in Pakistani jails.
Hundreds of well-wishers turned out in Bishnurampur village in northern Mymensingh district to catch a glimpse of him and congratulate the tearful and jubilant family.
Sarkar told AFP by telephone he had entered India without valid documents in 1989 without informing his family. He was then caught as he tried to cross into Pakistan in 1997 where he was jailed for trying to enter the country illegally.
"I went to Pakistan believing that I would get a better job there. But they caught me at the border. I was beaten and tortured in prison," he explained in a mixture of Urdu and Bengali.
"I wrote dozens of letters to my village address, but did not have any clue that they were never posted. At one stage I lost all hope of returning home," he said, adding that he was "delighted" to see his mother still alive.
The Red Cross became involved and facilitated Sarkar's return after his family received a tip-off that he was locked up in Pakistan and turned to the organisation for help, according to spokesperson Onchita Shadman, who described him as "frail and overwhelmed".
Julhas Uddin, Sarkar's younger brother, said most of the family had feared the worst.
"We searched for him for years and finally gave up hope believing he might have drowned in the sea. But our mother always believed that her son would return home one day," he told AFP.
"My mother passed out as he hugged her after returning. It was a heartbreaking scene. He could not control his tears for hours," he said.