10-month ordeal ends for Pak lad

Truth prevails

The 16-year-old Pakistani schoolboy was branded a potential human bomb by the BSF based on the almonds, as even the terrorists who came from Pakistan to target Mumbai in 2008 brought along dry fruits to sustain themselves in case of a seige.

But the BSF’s theory that Arshad was trained along with Mumbai terror suspect Ajmal Kasab did not hold ground, and the boy was released a couple of days ago. The release meant freedom for him from the long and harrowing ordeal of sustained interrogation ever since his arrest.

He was repatriated to Pakistan along with 63 others through the Attari border with Pakistan. Arshad was ecstatic,  Deputy Commissioner Amritsar, K S Pannu, said. “The boy was the happiest among the lot returning to their homeland. He was proved innocent,” he said.

Arshad’s case was peculiar in many ways. The boy, a student of Government Higher Secondary School for Boys in Lahore, was in his school uniform at the time of his arrest. The boy claimed that that he took a bus from Lahore to the Indo-Pak border following a tiff with his mother.

He did not go to school that day and strayed into the Indian side of the border, where he was apprehended by the BSF which claimed it had foiled what could have been a repeat of Mumbai 26/11.

Arshad’s predicament began then. He was handed over to the Punjab police for investigation. Besides 150 grams of almonds, a wrist watch, Rs 10 in Pakistani currency and a chemistry book were seized from him. And on the basis of the almonds, the theory that he could be a terrorist was woven.

Arshad’s case got noticed by the human rights group, Human Rights International, and an activist Navkiran Singh approached his family in Pakistan and assured it of Arshad’s return.

“Arshad’s mother Tahira Anwar had sent me documents to prove her son’s innocence and age. He was 16 when the BSF claimed his age to be 18,” Navkiran said. Arshad’s father is dead and the family lives in the Baghbanpura area of Lahore with his maternal uncle, Asif.

The BSF earlier claimed that the boy was on a reconnaissance mission at the Attari border to facilitate infiltration of a squad of seven suicide bombers, including three women. The prosecution did not have any evidence to substantiate the BSF’s claim.

Arshad’s lawyer advocate V P Singh Bhatia said that the BSF had admitted in the court that Arshad had arrived in India inadvertently and never claimed that he was a teenage terrorist.  A juvenile court passed the boy’s release orders, but issued a warning to Arshad who was booked under Section 3 of the Indian Passport Act.

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