Man once in Pak custody mourns loss of 'second mother'

Man once in Pak custody mourns loss of 'second mother'

Attari: Hamid Nihal Ansari, who was repatriated by Pakistan after six years in jail, on his return at Attari-Wagah border in Amritsar, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (PTI Photo) (PTI12_18_2018_000179B)

The death of former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has deprived a Mumbai man, once in Pakistan's custody, of a "second mother" as he called her.

Hamid Nihal Ansari (36) returned to India in 2016, after spending six years in a Pakistani jail on espionage charges.

"It was due to Sushmaji's efforts that I could return home. When I was handed over to India at the Wagah-Attari border and met my parents there, I had one mother. When I met Sushmaji later and she hugged me warmly and gave me courage, I had two. I feel that loss now," Hamid told PTI here.

The veteran leader of the ruling BJP breathed her last at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi on Tuesday night following a cardiac arrest. She was 67.

Asked if he had more interactions with Swaraj after his return to India, the software engineer-turned-leather businessman said, "There was no need as she had made all arrangements. She made everything so smooth that I did not get any reason to contact her again."

Hamid said she was a down to earth politician and the way she used social media to help common citizens to resolve their problems is something others (other leaders) should get inspired from.

"I am writing a book on the whole episode (of my stay in Pakistan and return to India)," he said.

Hamid said when he was shifted to a civil jail shortly before his release, he came to know from his lawyer that Swaraj, then external affairs minister, wrote several letters seeking consular access for him.

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"When I returned to India, my parents told me that Sushmaji extended her strong support for my release. When I met her, she hugged me, calling me beta (son) and asked me not to be afraid anymore now that I was back home," Hamid said.

"That was when I realised that I had me one more mother," he said.

Ansari was arrested in Pakistan in 2012 for allegedly entering that country from Afghanistan reportedly to meet a woman he befriended online. Pakistan slapped espionage charges against him. He was kept in the Peshawar Central Jail after being sentenced by a military court on December 15, 2015.

"When Hamid went to Pakistan, he was 26. We kept praying for his release but it was Sushmaji whose relentless efforts ensured that he was released and returned to India," said Fauzia, Hamid's mother.

The 59-year-old former college lecturer told PTI that when she first heard about Swaraj's health last night, her first thought was to pray for her speedy recovery.

"But when the TV channels started flashing the sad news a short while later, it came as an immense shock and felt like we had lost someone close," Fauzia said.

"When we had approached her for Hamid's release, she not only assured us that he will be back in India but also ensured that he was back home.

"It feels that the shade of a tree has been removed from our heads. She was such a rare leader and human being," Fauzia said. 

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