A three-year-long struggle of an Indian college teacher, Ms Fauzia Ansari, for tracing her missing son, Hamid Nehal Ansari, finally bore fruit when the Peshawar High Court was informed by the ministry of defence that he has presently been in custody of the military and is being court martialled. However, her legal battle has yet to conclude. It is not clear under what charges he has been tried by the court martial and what would be the outcome of the trial.
During the last three years Ms Ansari has approached every institution and individual of whom she had expectation of getting help. She has appealed to the Pakistani and Indian governments several times to trace her son, but in vain. She had even sent a letter to Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif in July 2015 with the request to play his role in securing release of her son. She had also approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED) and the PHC.
Ultimately, it was the PHC which after repeated notices and orders managed to trace the young man.
Deputy attorney general Mussaratullah Khan submitted a brief reply on behalf of the ministry of defence on Jan 13. “The agencies working under the administrative control of this ministry i.e. ISI and MI, GHQ were asked to provide requisite information. In response, Military Intelligence Directorate, GHQ, intimated that Hamid Nehal Ansari is in military custody and is being tried by Court Martial,” states the reply.
In the light of the said reply a two-member bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel disposed of a habeas corpus petition filed by Ms Ansari.
Hamid Ansari, who was 27 when he had disappeared, was an MBA degree holder and was a teacher at Mumbai Management College. His mother believed that her son was misguided by some of his Pakistani friends and was asked to cross over into Pakistan from Afghanistan where he had gone in search of job. Ms Ansari also claims that a female Pakistani friend of her son, with whom he was in touch through social media, was having some problems and her son wanted to help her.
It is not clear what sort of problems were faced by that particular female friend. Ms Ansari states that her son had gone to Afghanistan in Nov 2012 and till Nov 10, 2012 he was in contact with her. She claims that Mr Ansari was expected to return to India around Nov 15, 2012 but he did not return by then and also went incommunicado. Initially, Ms Ansari had sent an application to the human rights cell of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which had forwarded the case to CIED in March 2014. The commission had on April 10, 2014 directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa home department to constitute a joint investigation team for tracing Mr Ansari. The commission had also ordered the provincial police officer to register an FIR of his disappearance.
An FIR was registered on May 12, 2014 at the KDA (Kohat Development Authority) Police Station on the complaint of Ms Ansari. A joint investigation team also continued to hold meetings for tracing the man. In one of their meetings it was observed that as Mr Ansari had entered Pakistan without any valid documents his case was not that of enforced disappearance.
Later, Ms Ansari filed a habeas corpus petition in the PHC through Ms Zeenat Shehzadi, who was given special power of attorney by her. A little clue about Mr Ansari was first found by the end of 2014 when a police officer informed the high court that a suspected person with a fake Pakistani computerised identity card was taken into custody by the police in Kohat and subsequently handed over to intelligence agencies.
A sub-inspector of KDA Police Station, Faizullah Khan, had submitted his statement on oath, stating that a suspect was arrested by the rider squad after information was provided by an inspector of the Intelligence Bureau on Nov 14, 2012. He had stated that the suspect was interrogated by inspector Ibrahim Ullah Khan and his luggage was brought from Palwasha Hotel where the suspect was staying. He had claimed that a fake identity card by the name of Hamza was also recovered from that person. He had alleged that the suspect was later taken away by personnel of ISI and MI.
Subsequently, the high court continued to seek replies from the ministries of interior and defence. Following repeated notices when the ministry of defence finally filed its reply it surfaced that Mr Ansari was in the custody of the military.
A legal expert dealing with cases of missing persons said that Mr Ansari was no longer a “missing person” as it was now on record that he was in custody of the military. He added that there were different aspects of the case – one of the aspects is the details given by his mother, whereas the other aspect would be the charges against him to be announced by the security agencies. However, he added that one thing was clear that his entry and stay in Pakistan was illegal. Some of the experts believe that Mr Ansari might be detained on the charges of spying. “Keeping in view the mistrust between the two countries and the volatile security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas in 2012 there would be many people who won’t accept Ms Ansari’s version that her son was here to help out a Facebook friend in Kohat,” said a government attorney who did not want to be named.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2016