Pak Sailors Thank India, On Way Home
Mateen Hafeez for The Times of India
Five Pakistani hostages, who were held captive by Somali pirates for five months and rescued by the Indian Navy, will finally leave for Pakistan on Monday. The hostages had been languishing at Yellow Gate police station after their ‘consular access’ process got stuck in diplomatic channels of the two countries.
TOI was the first to report about the hostages’ plight and the problems in the consular access programmme. A team from the Pakistani High Commission then landed up at the Yellow Gate police station and completed the formalities. Earlier, this was scheduled to be done at Tihar jail in Delhi as the hostages were wrongly labeled ‘prisoners’. The men are Aurangzeb Balloch, his brother Sajjad, Farhad Aalam Khan, Mohammed Umair and Lal Bakhsh.
“We are excited to go home. There were some problems in our travel to Pakistan but the Yellow Gate police took care of us properly. We have no words to thank the Indian police and those who helped make our journey to Pakistan easy,” said Aurangzeb, a resident of Karachi. The other hostages were also jubilant when asked about their return to Pakistan. “In the last three months we saw the lanes and bylanes of this city. It’s very similar to Karachi. The people, places, food and roads here are similar to Karachi. Initially, we were afraid that we may be kept in India, but now we have a positive feeling about this country and its people who loved us,” said Sajjad, another hostage. “We watched the World Cup matches between India and Pakistan in the police station. When India won the final against Sri Lanka, we were happy. We never faced any discrimination here,” added Lal Bakhsh.
The hostages were part of an Iranian fishing trawler, Al-Murtuza. The ship was hijacked by AK-47 borne Somali pirates from the Ballochistan sea in November. “We would get insufficient food after we were captured by the pirates,” added Farhad.
The five men were provided food, chai and clothes. Sometimes they managed to get cigarettes. The policemen even gave their phones to the hostages so they could speak to their families in Pakistan. To speed up the process to send them home, Ansar Burny, former human rights minister in Pakistan, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and Abraham Mathai, state minorities commission vice-chairperson, worked together. “We spoke to Gurudas Kamat, the Union minister of state for home and he arranged consular access. The process was speeded up due to his efforts,” said Bhatt.