ISLAMABAD: The interior ministry was asked in June 2018 to confirm citizenship of a Pakistani woman who has been languishing in an Indian prison, Senator Irfan Siddiqui revealed on Wednesday.

According to sources, she is expected to return to Pakistan in the next few days.

Talking to a group of reporters, he said the interior ministry did not respond in the matter and acted only when it was twice raised in the Senate.

An official also confirmed that the interior ministry had been asked to confirm her citizenship soon after first consular access in June 2018.

“This criminal negligence is not only regrettable but also reprehensible,” he added.

The PML-N senator said he had received reports of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Interior submitted to the Senate Secretariat. According to the FO report, Sumaira was given consular access twice — on May 23, 2018 and November 18, 2021.

In New Delhi, officials of the Pakistan High Commission met Sumaira, who was detained at Tihar jail.

Soon after the first access to Sumaira in May 2018, a letter was sent to the interior ministry in June that year for confirmation of her citizenship, but the citizenship certificate could not be issued even after around four years. “Finally, on Feb 17, 2022, when I once again raised my voice in the Senate, this certificate was issued the same day,” Senator Siddiqui said.

However, Sumaira is still lodged at a detention centre in Saidpur, Bangalore, even after completing her jail term.

Senator Siddiqui said it was a test case. “I don’t know who to turn to for this very important humanitarian issue and who should be asked for a full investigation into this criminal negligence.” He said that as far as he knew over 200 Pakistanis were still languishing in Indian jails.

It may be recalled that Sumaira, who belongs to a Pakistani family residing in Qatar, had married Mohammad Shehab, an Indian Muslim citizen in Qatar. Shehab took Sumaira to India without a visa, where she was arrested and jailed in Bangalore in 2017. She later gave birth to a baby girl who also remained in prison for four years with her mother. They were released last year after paying a fine of Rs1 million which was collected by the people of Bangalore.

After her release, Sumaira was placed in a detention centre for not having a Pakistani citizenship certificate.

The issue was raised by Irfan Siddiqui in the Senate on Feb 14 and again on Feb 17.

According to Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the citizenship certificate was issued on Feb 17. As per the foreign ministry’s report, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has contacted Sumaira and was actively seeking her release.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2022

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