Hope for Pak teen in Indian jail

Friday, the auspicious day for Muslims, brings hope for the release of a 13-year-old Pakistani boy, Kasif Ali, who has been languishing in a child observation home in Faridkot district of Punjab for the last nearly one-and-half years after he was arrested by the BSF in 2011.

Like many other boys straying across borders in the past, some accidentally, while some charmed by Bollywood’s glitz and glamour, Ali’s doleful predicament too has a similar sordid story of mistakenly straying across the border. His journey was cut short when he was arrested and put behind bars by security agencies in India. 

After several months of flip-flop, a team from Pakistan will finally be arriving in Amritsar on Friday to identify of the boy.

The inordinate delay in Ali’s release took place since the Pakistan authorities “failed” to trace the family of the boy to establish his identity.

The process now appears complete and it’s likely that Ali is free to travel back to his country in the next couple of days. All this while, sources said, the boy had been homesick, living in adverse conditions for the first time without his parents. Kasif even received psychiatric counselling at the Centre.

Top sources in the district administration said Ali will be escorted to the Attari border in Amritsar on Friday where officials from both nations will identify his credentials before release. Early this year, the Juvenile Justice Board in India acquitted Ali of the charges of illegally crossing the border. However, that was not the end of his miseries.

Procedural logjams in repatriation and an unwarranted delay to identify credentials of the boy left him suffering at the juvenile home in Faridkot. It was a petty argument between the mother and the son that left Ali walk his way out of home and stray into Indian territory.

In fact, Ali’s repatriation could have been delayed even further had it not been for the sincere efforts of a Pakistan-based performance theatre group - Ajoka - which was recently in India to perform and helped to locate Ali’s family back home in Pakistan.

On September 21, the Pakistani group performed at a local fair in Punjab’s Faridkot district.

The local sessions judge, Archana Puri, met the creative director of Ajoka, Madeeha Gauhar, on the sidelines of the event and urged her to help Ali unite with his parents.

Puri gave her photographs and video footage of the boy to Gauhar.

The video footage ran this week on local news channels in Pakistan and the station house officer in Mandi Ahmadabad Police Station in Kasur district was contacted. The boy’s family, including the mother, Kalsoom Bibi, were traced. They recognised and confirmed Ali’s identity.

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