The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hope, again, for Fatima
- Move to end Indian national’s misery in Lahore jail is revived

Calcutta, July 3: If the dramatic change at the Centre made Fatima Bibi — an Indian national in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail — despair even more, there’s good news: The effort to get the one-time Mumbaikar released has been revived.

The initiative, again, has come from Bihar Cricket Association president Amitabh Choudhary, a Ranchi-based senior IPS officer.

As reported by The Telegraph on April 16, Fatima’s case was taken up in New Delhi (with a key officer under the-then minister of state for external affairs, Digvijay Singh) by Choudhary during the Revival Series — specifically before the Rawalpindi Test.

However, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government fell around a month after that and, till the other day, it seemed the hapless 50-plus woman’s ordeal would continue indefinitely.

Last evening, though, Choudhary met a senior officer in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Fatima-file has begun to move once more.

“I’ve been assured her case will be quickly looked into… Obviously, some verification is going to be done but, today, I’m very optimistic,” Choudhary informed, speaking exclusively.

Booked for entering Pakistan without a visa, the illiterate Fatima has been behind bars for five years.

Fatima, of course, had no intention of landing in Pakistan: She got tricked by her (second) husband and was put on a Dubai-Islamabad flight instead of one for Mumbai.

According to Fatima’s “case history,” she was widowed in the December 1992 disturbances and “advised” to head for Dubai and find employment. That, she was told (by relatives), would secure the future of her three daughters.

While in that Emirate, she married a widower who worked in a tailoring establishment. She herself found employment, but the husband — whose nationality hasn’t been recorded — began to pocket her earnings instead of remitting every dirham to the daughters.

Having had enough, Fatima asked to be sent back to Mumbai. The husband did arrange a ticket, but it was for Islamabad!

Choudhary, who was manager of the U-19 Asia Cup-winning side (in Lahore, last November), learnt of Fatima’s plight from Rao Iftikhar Khan, additional home commissioner of Punjab.

Khan had been of immense help when the colts decided to return home through Wagah, instead of taking a circuitous route (via Dubai), as direct flights hadn’t yet been restored.

Choudhary, back in Ranchi earlier in the day, added he would keep “the highly sympathetic” Khan posted about yesterday’s development. And, possibly, a message will be conveyed to Fatima in Kot Lakhpat.

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