Jailed and honoured

The only evidence against me was an article ‘A Review of Indian Repression in  Kashmir’ by Nazir Kamal, I had downloaded from a website ( www.issi.org.pk) of a Pakistani think-tank, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). To top it all, when the annexure of the article were sent to the Military Intelligence for their opinion, the

MI determined the document to be of ‘’high security value, prejudicial to the security of the country and discloses order of the battle (ORBAT) in Jammu and Kashmir.’’ However, it took as long as six months for the MI to revise its opinion and tell the court the document had no security relevance and that the document was available in public domain.

When governments in New Delhi are engaged in making stiffer laws, they must learn that it took Australian criminal justice system just 25 days to release Indian doctor Hanif from custody. They realized their folly and accepted it. I was happy to note that they filed his charge sheet within only five days. His bail application was decided in one week. Can you guess how much time it took for my charge sheet to be filed? Three months! Until the charge sheet was filed for three months there were a lot of cock and bull stories that found their way to the media, which lapped them up. I suspect the stories were there to affect public opinion. Immediately after my arrest in June 2002, my lawyer had filed a bail application. The court took it up for hearing after five months. I must tell you the application was summarily rejected. One of the arguments for the rejection was that court had found evidence of my inclination towards liberation of Kashmir and cited as proof the existence of an e-mail in my computer entitled ‘’ATROCITIES OF FORCES IN GILGIT’. It needs hardly to be mentioned here that Gilgit does not exist within that part of Jammu and Kashmir that India controls! The e-mail was actually a memorandum issued by Balwaristan National Front detailing alleged atrocities of Pakistani forces and the Inter Services Intelligence in the Gilgit area of Pakistan administered Kashmir. In the e-mail the organization had appealed to the United Nations and other organization to ‘’intervene’’ on behalf of 2 million down trodden people of Balwaristan (Occupied

Gilgit Baltistan)’’ and had demanded that then Pakistani President Rafiq Tarar, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, General Ziauddin, the then ISI Chief, General Mohammad Aziz be brought to the International Court of Justice as ‘’war criminals.’’ The court had not even bothered to read this evidence before passing orders.

Soon after my arrest till the filing of the chargesheet, we had been pleading that that the document existed on the web. One day the court took notice and directed the police to investigate. In the next hearing, police furnished a certificate from a cyber cafe owner in which he declared he could not locate the document on the net. When we protested, court asked us to arrange a computer and internet facility. My friends brought a laptop into the chamber at the subsequent hearing. But the judge, Sangeeta Dhingra Sehgal, did not allow use of her official telephone line to connect the laptop to the internet.

Those days broadband and wireless internet were yet to enter the market. Without connecting to the telephone there was no way we could access the internet. Without referring to my case, because it was sub-judice the Press Council of India, a quasi-judicial body in its July 19, 2002 meeting at Varanasi under the chairmanship of Justice K Jayachandra Reddy, had held ‘’that any information which is publicly displayed on the internet cannot be treated as confidential and the reproduction or possession of such matter may not attract provisions of the Official Secrets Act.’’ Not only was this opinion of the Press Council ignored by the government, but when we produced the resolution in the court, the judge threw it away, and rebuked my lawyer. The same judge, it needs to be mentioned here, was later appointed Secretary to the same Press Council of India, whose resolution she had thrown at our face. My case took a turn only when the Military Intelligence (MI), under pressure from media and friends in the establishment, realized its folly and revised its opinion. The Home Ministry disregarded the fresh MI opinion but ultimately decided to withdraw the case in ‘’public interest’’ after seven months.

When Dr. Haneef was demanding apologies from the Australian government for his travails, I remembered that in my case, while leaders did express their regret privately, there were no public apologies. The officials, who had tampered with the documents, which amounted to contempt of court, are free. Before I forget, I must mention that two of them recently completed a prized posting in Kosovo as part of International Police Force. One of them was even promoted for ‘’exceptionally good work.’’

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