After languishing for four long years at a detention centre in Bangalore, India, Pakistan-born Sumaira Rehman has finally returned to her home country. Accompanying her is her four-year-old daughter whom she gave birth to at the detention centre. Sumaira, who lived in Qatar, had married an Indian Muslim man without the consent of her parents and shifted to India. But after her visa expired, she was taken into custody. Pakistani authorities finally decided to act when a senator raised that issue saying that the Interior Ministry had failed to issue her a certificate of nationality even after countless calls for help from the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.
Ever since the partition, the tussle between India and Pakistan has taken a heavy toll on common citizens living in both countries and abroad. Disputes and skirmishes have led to the killing, displacement and detention of common people caught in the middle. The latest of this has taken the form of Islamophobia in India. Moreover, deep-rooted corruption and the incompetence of authorities have further exacerbated their miseries and officials on both sides of the borders have been sluggish at providing compensation or help to those affected. While Pakistan’s interior ministry must be criticised for their lackluster attitude, Indian authorities must also be questioned as to why a woman, who was also pregnant, was kept for so many years without being given a proper resolution. Unfortunately, there are countless such cases with some even being dragged on for decades just because of tensions between India and Pakistan. We must learn from our past as stories of the partition have uncovered massive human suffering.
Both Pakistan and India need to keep their differences aside to aid those who are affected by tensions. Both sides need to hold a dialogue in this regard and urge their respective authorities to identify and expedite all such cases. They must be an example to other countries engaged in conflict that common citizens must never fall victim to the animosity between any two countries. In the end, humanity must prevail over all else.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2022.