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Dream gone sour for Pakistani boy

Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: Nasir Sultan was convinced that all it would take for him to become a Shah Rukh Khan was to reach Mumbai, and Bollywood would be his.

Instead, the 15-year-old Indian-movies-obsessed Pakhtun boy from the North-West Frontier Province is possibly in a jail in Punjab, India, arrested for crossing the border illegally, his family believes.

His distraught father, Sultan Zareen, a petrol pump attendant on daily wages, is now running from pillar to post to have his son freed and sent back to Pakistan, a lawyer who is helping him told The Hindu.

According to the lawyer, Ejaz Mohammed Khan, who is affiliated to the Society for the Protection of Child Rights, a Pakistani NGO, Nasir, a 10th class student, left his home in Upper Dir for school on the morning of August 16. But he never returned home.

“This is such a troubled area that the parents thought he had been kidnapped by one of the militant gangs or that he had been taken away by the Taliban for jihad,” said the Peshawar-based lawyer. “But they had their doubts because everyone knows the father is not rich enough to pay ransom, and the son is not at all religious, not the jihad type.”

Then on October 16, almost two months after Nasir’s disappearance, Mr. Zareen received a call on his phone from his son, saying he was in India and had been arrested. The phone was cut off after that, but the father called back.

It was picked up by a man who said he was the superintendent of Faridkot jail, and that Mr. Zareen’s son was in the jail. He called the number two or three more times, and each time it was picked up by a different person, claiming to be an official.

The men who answered the phone also told Mr. Zareen that Nasir was in the Faridkot jail for crossing the border illegally. According to Ejaz Mohammed Khan, one of them told Mr. Zareen that if he contacted Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, he would help to free the boy.

When The Hindu tried the number, a man who identified himself as Vinod Kumar answered and said it was a PCO in Ferozepur, and that policemen had brought the boy there to make the call. Mr. Kumar said the policemen would have taken the boy 35 km away to the Faridkot Central Jail, which had a children’s facility.

On Wednesday, Mr. Zareen met federal Minister from the North-West Frontier Province, Nazimuddin Khan, and gave him a petition addressed to the Foreign Minister.

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