QUETTA: For 90-year-old Bengali citizen Ghaffar Ali, who has been stranded in Quetta for nearly 20 years, only one desire burns in his age-weary eyes: to see his family again one last time.
“I want to go back to but no one is willing to help me,” complains Ali as he lounges at the Farooqia madrassah in Gulshan Town, Wahdat Colony.
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Ali says he was stranded in a strange city as he was returning from pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina. In his broken Urdu, punctuated with Bengali, he recounts how in 1985 he travelled from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia via road, crossing India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and finally the holy lands.
“I lost my travel documents somewhere between Iraq and Kuwait on my way back,” he says.
With no travel documents, he was deported to Iran where he worked at a cold drinks stall in the port city of Chabahar for a while before ending up in Pakistan.
“Countries deported me one after another before I landed at Raiwind’s Tebleeghi Markaz in Rawalpindi,” he added. At the religious centre, he was directed to Sadiqiya Mosque on Jan Muhammad Road in Quetta.
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Qari Qasim, who refers to Ali as Haji Abdul Ghafoor and can understand a little Bengali, says when Ali arrived at the mosque in 1996, no one could understand what he said and he could not understand Urdu.
So, the Ameer of Sadiqiya Mosque sent him to the Farooqiya seminary where a resident Amanullah could speak Bengali.
Since then, he has lived at the seminary.
“Although Ali had many opportunities to live in separate home, he chose to stay at the seminary or the mosque because he loved giving the call for prayers (Azaan),” Qari Qasim adds.
When asked if the seminary had tried to send him back to Bangladesh, Qasim says they did try to make arrangements for his journey home and sent him to Karachi in this regard but Ali was deported for not having legal travel documents.
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Having spent close to 30 years away from his home in Murad Pur district of Slait Dala, Bangladesh, Ali now yearns to return to his family.
“When I left my family, I told my father Aqalullah and brother Safar Ali that I will not come back from the holy place and spend the rest of my life in Madina.”
But now, he is becoming desperate to be reunited with his family.
“With each passing day I am becoming ever more desperate and fear that I will not be able to see my country again,” he says before adding that he wants to meet his family one more time before he dies.
“I am doing all I can to get back.” But with Ali unable to get in touch with his family members, getting him home will be a tough task.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2015.
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