ISLAMABAD: Sumaira Rehman, a Pakistani woman who had been languishing in a detention centre at Bangalore in India for some four years, has finally returned to Pakistan along with her four-year-old daughter Sana Fatima.

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui, who had last week said Indian authorities have completed all formalities for Sumaira’s release, made the disclosure while talking to reporters here.

Indian authorities handed over Sumaira and her daughter to Pakistani authorities at the Wagah border. Pakistani High Commission officials accompanied Sumaira from Bangalore to Wagah border.

It will take another four days for Sumaira and her daughter to fulfill all the legal requirements and to complete immigration processes. “After [immigration process] she would be free to go wherever she wants to go” said Senator Siddiqui.

The senator had raised the issue of Sumaira’s detention in India during a Senate session after the Ministry of Interior (MoI) failed to issue a certificate of nationality for her on the request of the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.

A woman of Pakistani origin, Sumaira was settled in Qatar. In 2017, she married an Indian Muslim man named Mohammad Shahab against the consent of her parents. Shahab took her to India where the couple settled down.

However, after her visa expired she was sent to jail along with her husband. Later, the Indian authorities released her husband but kept her in jail, where she gave birth to a baby girl.

In 2018, the Pakistani High Commission was given consular access to Sumaira. The high commission staff after meeting her wrote a letter to the MoI in Islamabad to confirm her nationality. However, the letter was ignored by the ministry.

Sumaira spent four years in Indian jail. She also paid a fine of one million Indian rupees to the government of India, which she collected from donations. Later, the Indian authorities put her in a detention centre.

A human rights lawyer, Suhana Biswa Patna, took up Sumaira’s case and struggled within the Indian legal system for her release from the custodial centre.

On February 17 this year, Senator Siddiqui raised the issue of Sumaira’s detention in the Senate for the second time. Sumaira was finally issued a citizenship certificate by the MoI the same day.

The senator remained in constant touch with the Foreign Office, Indian High Commission in Islamabad, the Indian human rights lawyer who were working on the case and the Asma Jehangir Legal Aid Centre in Lahore.

“A week ago, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad informed me that Sumaira and her little daughter will be handed over to Pakistani authorities at Wagah on March 26,” said Senator Siddiqui.

He said Pakistani authorities have confirmed that the woman and her child have been handed over to them.

Senator Siddiqui said he had talked to the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who assured him that all assistance would be provided to Sumaira in order to help her settle down in Pakistan.

The senator then demanded that the interior ministry officials who ignored Sumaira’s case should be held accountable.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2022

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