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Freed from Amritsar jail, Pakistani sisters return home after 11 years

Arrested nearly 11 years ago and jailed for carrying drugs, two sisters from Pakistan were on Thursday released from the Amritsar Central Jail and allowed to return to Pakistan via the Attari-Wagah border.

Sisters Fatima and Mumtaz entered Pakistan through the Attari border, about 30 km from here, on Thursday afternoon after all formalities for their release and repatriation were completed by authorities on both sides.

They were accompanied back by Fatima’s daughter, Heena, who was born during her imprisonment here.

Although both sisters were happy to be returning to Pakistan, they had mixed feelings since their mother, Rashida Bibi, who was arrested with them in May 2006 passed away in the prison in 2008 due to illness.

They were arrested by security agencies at the Attari Railway Station for carrying drugs as they alighted from the Samjhauta Express — the peace train between India and Pakistan.

The sisters and the mother, who were heading for Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh in 2006 to meet relatives, were tried by a court here and sentenced to 10 years in prison and imposed a penalty of Rs 4 lakh.

They, however, claimed that they had been framed in the drugs case.

Fatima, who is from Gujranwala and was pregnant at the time of her arrest, gave birth to Heena in jail in 2006. The newborn girl lived with her mother in the prison.

Although their prison term ended in November 2015, they were lodged in the prison transit camp as they did not have the means to pay the penalty of Rs 4 lakh.

The plight of the Pakistani sisters was taken up with the court and the union government by local lawyer Navjot Kaur.

With the help of a Batala-based NGO, Sarbat Da Bhala Humanity Club, Kaur arranged the penalty money to be paid. Despite that it took almost seven months for their file in the union ministries of Home and External Affairs to move.

The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi completed the formalities to confer Pakistani nationality on Heena.

“We are happy to be returning to Pakistan,” both sisters told the media before crossing over.