Sentenced as Pakistani, jailed man finally finds Indian identity

The district administration and prison authorities in Amritsar, where Wasil Khan, 43, is lodged in the Central Jail for the last many years, have now completed the formalities to release him to his family from Bihar.

Khan is likely to be released in a day or two, after spending nearly 10 years in Punjab jails.

"We have completed all formalities and paper work regarding Khan's release. He would be released from jail tomorrow (Tuesday) or day after tomorrow (Wednesday)," Amritsar District Magistrate K.S. Pannu told IANS.

"His family members had come from Bihar around three-four days back to get him released. Our administration is providing them every kind of assistance here," Pannu added.

While Indian authorities labelled him a Pakistani, his family maintained that he was every bit an India. Khan's release became possible after Justice Mehtab Singh Gill of the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered his release.

The authorities have now acknowledged that Khan is an Indian national after his family provided proof.

The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) had last week taken notice of Khan's plight and sought a report in this regard.

Khan was detained by security forces in 2000 from near the India-Pakistan international border in the frontier district of Gurdaspur after he failed to explain his presence in the border belt. He was branded as a Pakistani who had illegally crossed over into India.
Sources say that as Punjab Police did not know what to do with him, initially a police officer kept him in his home as a cook.

In March 2002, the police named him for involvement in a bomb blast in Sirhind town near Ludhiana. After a trial, he was convicted and sentenced to eight years in jail for the incident.

While he languished in jail as a Pakistani and Indian authorities waited for his repatriation to Pakistan, Mohazra Khatoon, who claimed to be Khan's sister, landed up here last week and said that Khan was her brother.

"After a minor altercation, Wasil left home 10 years ago and we haven't seen or heard of him since. We gave up all hope but we recently received a letter from him from the jail here. A jail guard had helped him post it," said Khatoon, who hails from Nekerdehi village in Bihar's East Champaran district.

After arriving here, Khatoon had an emotional reunion with her brother inside the jail last week.

She and her lawyer-husband, Shahid Raza Khan, later met Amritsar's District Magistrate K.S. Pannu and handed him a bunch of documents that prove Khan's Indian identity.
Pannu enquired into Khan's past from the Nabha Jail near Patiala town, where he had spent most of the time following his conviction in 2002.

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