Harrowing time for Indian journalist's family at Attari border

Harrowing time for Indian journalist's family at Attari border

Earrings and several pieces of jewellery besides Rs 10,000 in cash were missing after their luggage was opened by the officials before they embarked on the Lahore-Delhi bus last Monday, the family complained.

The family was also forced to part with a bottle of sunscreen lotion. But their travails did not end after crossing the border with Indian immigration officials questioning them for over an hour.

Giving a first-hand account of her ordeal, Lamat R Hasan, wife of PTI's Islamabad correspondent Rezaul H Laskar, said, "I was excited about crossing the Indo-Pak border using the land route for the first time until I stepped into the immigration office at Attari at about 8 am on May 17."

At Attari, an officer on seeing her passport curtly told her that she is not allowed to use the land route to cross the border.

To use the land route, Indian journalists are required to have a mention of the point of entry in their visas or else they have to take special permission from officials concerned.
"I had always flown to Pakistan and this was the first time that I was using the land route. I told the officer that my visa does not entitle me to cross the Wagah border on foot, but I am permitted to take the bus," Lamat said.

She said she was not allowed to use the telephone by the officials who claimed it was not functioning.

When she told them that she would like to inform the PTI office that she was stuck at the border, the officer said, "Don't impress me with your press credentials."

Lamat said she was also not allowed to meet her parents-in-law and sister-in-law, who were accompanying her.

According to her, she was asked all types of questions -- "when did you go to Pakistan"; "when was your last visit to India?"; "what do you do in Pakistan?"; "what does your husband do there?"; "why did you decide to board the bus and not fly..." and "how many Pakistanis do you know?"

Lamat was allowed to go back to the lounge only after she gave the Indian High Commissioner's number as her reference in Islamabad.

"I sat in the lounge for another 30 minutes before I was allowed to cross the border in the bus."

But that was not it, said Lamat. An officer handed a sheet of paper asking her to write that she is innocent. She faced more questions when she refused.