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Ansari, Geeta, Zainab: How Sushma Swaraj went out of the way to help Indian nationals

By Vishal S

New Delhi, Aug 07: Former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would often go out of the way to help people. Especially, when it came to Indian nationals who were wrongly imprisoned or kept in captivity, Swaraj would leave no stone unturned to reach out, get in touch with authorities in that country and press for their release.

Ansari, Geeta, Zainab: How Sushma Swaraj went out of the way to help Indian nationals

Hamid Nihal Ansari, Geeta and Zainab Begum expressed profound grief when they came to know that the former EAM was no more. Here's are the stories of their rescue and how they reacted upon knowing about Swaraj's demise:

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Curious case of Hamid Nihal Ansari:

One such case is that of Indian national Hamid Nihal Ansari. In December 2018, Pakistan released Ansari who was arrested in 2012 for illegally entering the country from Afghanistan to meet a girl he had befriended online. The 33-year-old Mumbai resident was kept imprisoned in the Peshawar Central Jail after being sentenced by a military court for possessing a fake Pakistani identity card on December 15, 2015. Ansari had gone missing after he was taken into custody by Pakistani intelligence agencies and local police in Kohat in 2012 and finally in reply to a habeas corpus petition filed by his mother, Fauzia Ansari, the high court was informed that he was in custody of the Pakistan Army and was being tried by a military court.

How Sushma rescued Geeta?

Geeta, the deaf-mute Indian woman living in Pakistan after accidentally crossing the border over a decade ago, returned in October 2015 with both governments completing all formalities. Geeta was reportedly just 7 or 8 years old when she was found sitting alone on the Samjhauta Express by the Pakistan Rangers 15 years ago at the Lahore railway station.

23-year-old Geeta was adopted by the Edhi Foundation's Bilquees Edhi and lived with her in Karachi. Geeta later identified her father, step-mother and siblings from a photograph sent to her by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. Then Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, T C A Raghavan, and his wife had visited Geeta in August 2015 after then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj directed him to meet her and try to locate her family.

Zainab Begum was tricked into slavery

After months of torture and alleged sexual exploitation in Saudi Arabia, a Hyderabad woman finally returned home in 2018. Zainab Begum, a resident of Kalaphattar, had been stuck in Saudi since she travelled there on work on June 13, 2017. She said that she was promised a job at a hospital in Saudi Arabia with a salary of 1200 Saudi riyal per month by a travel agent named Mohammed Ismail. After she reached the capital Riyadh, she was taken to Hail and made to work as a domestic worker instead. Begum was also held captive. Once, when she went outside to throw garbage, she narrated her ordeal and pleaded for help from a Bengali person who was working in another house nearby. Through the man, she spoke to her son and informed her family of the torture.

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The family approached Majlis Bachao Tehreek spokesperson Amjed Ullah Khan and narrated their woes. Following this, Khan brought the issue to the notice of then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Swaraj then directed Embassy officials in Riyadh to meet Zainab and counsel her. She was in a few days rescued and brought to India.

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