Monday, 24 January, 2022
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I went to Pakistan to rescue my friend and was arrested as a spy: Hamid Ansari’s journey

Hamid Ansari writes with Geeta Mohan about how he had gone to rescue his Pakistani friend from marriage but was accused of being a R&AW spy.

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Sitting between the two cops, I tried to think of ways to escape. What would I tell them? Could I call Atta? Maybe he would be able to help me through his journalist contacts. But then I was reminded of his last words. He said he would disown me if I mentioned him. Disowned, abandoned, betrayed . . . Should I just be honest? 

The bike entered a gated premise and halted. It was a police station. I was taken inside and made to sit on a chair. This was my first encounter with the Pakistani authorities. Before this, Atta had handled everything, but now I was left to my own devices. What was I to do? 

The officer rested himself on the table in front of me and bent forward. He smiled and said, ‘It is best you tell us the truth. We already have intelligence on you. We know about you.’ 

I was shocked and kept staring at the floor. My head hurt. I wanted to scream and cry but I also wanted to reason with them. Abdullah’s face flashed in front of me, and the thought crossed my mind that this was an ambush set up by him. Why would he suddenly ask me where I was? Why did his friend need a blood test at that moment? The abrupt change of venue from a hostel to a hotel, and then the ‘assignment’. ‘Don’t leave the room’—his words echoed in my mind. It was a trap. 

The cops would have caught me in the room itself. I only delayed the process by stepping out. There was no point lying about my nationality, so I told them the truth. 

‘Sir, I am an Indian and have come here looking for a girl, a friend who is in trouble. I just want to help her. She is being married off forcefully under the wani custom. I tried very hard to get a visa for Pakistan but failed . . .’ Even as I was speaking, a few men in civilian clothes arrived. 

Among them was a senior-looking man in civil clothes, with a pleasant demeanour. He walked up to me and said softly, ‘I was called in because my colleagues told me they have caught an Indian spy. What is the truth, my son? If you are honest with me, maybe I can help. I am in charge here.’ 

I was fumbling through my words in fear. ‘I am not an Indian spy. I swear on Allah. I am from Mumbai in India. I am an engineer and I came here to rescue my friend Fiza, who is the daughter of Sadiq-ur- Rahman. His son killed a neighbour and now she is being offered in marriage as part of the wani custom . . .’ 

I went ahead and told him how I had planned and entered Pakistan through Afghanistan by researching on the Internet. I omitted the part about Atta-ur-Rahman. Most of the policemen were sneering and laughing. But the officer kept a serious face. I couldn’t gauge whether he believed me or not. 

I stopped to see what he had to say. He looked at me hard and asked, ‘How is it possible that you entered Pakistan, not just Lahore or Karachi, but the interiors of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, without any assistance? You will have to give us names.’ 

I was reminded of Atta-ur-Rahman’s words about not taking his name and that he would deny knowing me even if I did. I didn’t want to betray him so I told the officer that I did some research on the Internet and planned the whole thing on my own. I added, ‘Sir, I am telling the truth. I am sure if you ask someone about Sadiq-ur-Rahman and his family, you will know. I came here for a humanitarian cause.’

Also read: The cost of speaking truth to power in Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan — you might not return home

The elderly officer was about to ask a question when a voice from behind interrupted him. ‘Sir, Sadiq is my relative. I did hear about the problems he faced. He was injured, shot by his own son. It was during that time that the jirga decided that Fiza’s hand in marriage would have to be given in wani. But as far as I know, no wedding has taken place yet in that household and Sadiq is also out on bail.’ 

‘Sir, I am not a spy,’ I pleaded again. ‘Now your own man is confirming my story. Please help me. Please,’ I said. 

The officer turned around. He stepped out with the others, and when they returned, the cop who was Sadiq’s relative was not among them. The senior officer handed over my hotel keys to one of his juniors and asked him to get all my belongings. 

‘What is happening, sir? Please help me. I am innocent. I am not here to harm anyone but to help a girl in need,’ I said. 

They started laughing. Another cop walked up to me and said that the matter was out of their hands now and that another team was on its way. ‘They will come and deport you,’ he said. 

The senior officer said, ‘Pay me 5 lakh and I will drop you to the border in my own car.’ There was another roar of laughter since they knew that all I had was 5000. 

So his pleasant demeanour had been a farce. The evil laughter was enough for me to know that any amount of pleading now would only end in ridicule. So I kept quiet. Meanwhile, I saw an officer come in with some papers. 

One of them started noting details in their register. I was officially booked and arrested. 

My rights were not read to me. I was only told of my arrest. Their minds were made up. It was as though this was part of a larger scheme and I had taken the bait unknowingly. Was everybody involved? Was Atta also part of this plan? I sure as hell knew Abdullah was. He had ruined my life.

Also read: Hamid Nihal Ansari is back from Pakistani jail, but CBI still lists him as ‘missing’

The questioning didn’t stop even after I was booked. They asked me about my family, where I lived, what I did, how I had got in touch with Fiza. 

One of them held up my fake ID and said, ‘So this is not your real identity. How did you get this ID card? What is your real identity? Are you even a Muslim?’ 

‘I paid an agent and bought the ID. I have given you my real name, sir. I am Hamid Ansari. I am a Muslim,’ I said. 

They seemed very curious. Another officer said, ‘You are an Indian. There are no real Muslims in India. So don’t lie to us.’ 

I was shocked but now was not the time to argue. In a short span of time, the conversation had moved from me being an Indian without legal papers to questioning whether I was a Muslim or not. 

They started asking questions about Islam. I answered all of them correctly. They were left with no choice but to accept what I said. Instead, one of them turned around and implied that I was a ‘very well- trained spy’. 

I was yet to fathom the severity of the situation and was dreading what lay ahead. But seeing the buffoonery of the cops, I blurted out, ‘Do you know that Islam does not allow any Muslim to question or doubt someone’s religious belief?’ 

They all stopped talking and stared at me. The senior officer raised his voice for the first time, ‘Don’t teach us what to do. You will be taught a lesson well and good.’ 

I froze. One of the officers took me to another room and asked me to strip. I couldn’t believe what I had heard so I gave him a blank stare. He shouted and asked me to remove all my clothes. I had seen this in the movies. But I had never thought I would be at the receiving end of such a nightmarish experience. 

This excerpt from ‘Hamid: The Story Of My Captivity, Survival And Freedom’ by Hamid Ansari and Geeta Mohan has been published with permission from Penguin Random House India.

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  1. Read fake ID and other suspicious reasons of entering Pakistan he was rightfully suspected to be a spy but only suspected unless proven otherwise.however the behaviour of Pakistani police laughing, stripping and asking for 5 lakhs of rupees is the actual story but a very routine story. The behaviour off police on both sides of the border and other 3rd world country is the same uneducated dyscivilised and inhuman .

    • No police officer in India will laugh at you or ask you for bribe they will read you your rights and call the NIA asap then you will be read the rights by NIA and taken to NIA court ISI spies are regularly caught in India in almost every town there has been at least one arrest since independence.

  2. Sir a friendly advise to any one, when you go to another country make sure you know the law of that country. when people from India come to USA while start to live here gets arrested for beating wives and kids drinking & peeing in public, there are many laws people don’t know. Also American laws don’t apply in Pakistan or any other country,

  3. Well knowing the history of relationship between two countries illegally entering a country no matter for what reason was just insane ,how can you possibly help another person when you had no power in land?

  4. Just a BS story, write about Pakistanis who accidentally stray across borders are stuck in Indian nails for decades, this guy at least admits to deliberate deception.

  5. Muslims are lynched in India just for eating beef, this ansari need to help them first instead of going someone else countr just to got little fame. Also in India million of female child are killed by their parents, so Mr ansari teach those parents not to kill innocent girls.

  6. Entered the country with fake ID via afghan border. Can you please name one person from your country who choose that route and was on peace mission?

  7. So you learned a lesson that you are safe in India as majority Hindus around. Tell this to Amir Khan and other secular Muslims

  8. You should be thankful for being released. Ask geeta mohan if a pakistani is arrested in similar circumstances , how he will be repatriated, perhaps in a body bag.

  9. A guy travels to a country when the tensions are high through illegal means with a fake ID, something obviously a spy would do & the title showcases as he was treated unjustly? Despite being wrong at every level.

  10. My friend you entered pakistan illegally and that too through Afghanistan and had fake ID. Will anyone in right mind won’t doubt that u r a spy. I hope u know that Pakistani authorities do catch them occasionally. So anyone being unbiased tell me what he was expecting the police men to do?

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