Efforts to send back a Pakistani man, who was languishing in a jail in Kolkata as a prisoner of war for the past four decades, hit a roadblock as he became untraceable among thousands of prisoners.
The Bangladeshi Mukti Joddha Bahini caught Mohammed Naseer on March 25, 1971, in the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, according to Diganta, an NGO which is trying to send the man back to his family members.
Naseer was then handed over to the Indian Army as a PoW and since then there was no news of him. What is known is that he had been in Alipore Central Jail in Kolkata in 2000.
The prison authorities said Naseer must have been shifted to another jail, but could not specify how much time it would
take to trace the man who must be around 70 years of age now.
Born in Gazipur in Uttar Pradesh, Naseer migrated to Dhaka in 1964 with wife Saliha Khatoon and three-year-old son
Mohammed Hussain, became a Pakistani national and used to run a shoe shop in Duniyajpur near Dhaka.
"When Naseer was trying to flee during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, he was caught by the Mukti Joddha Bahini and was handed over to the Indian Army. His family members got shelter in the United Nations relief camp and they later settled in Karachi," said Utpal Roy who runs the NGO, Diganta.
The incident came to the fore when a prisoner released from Alipur Central Jail went to Gazipur and informed Naseer's
relatives that he had seen him in the jail in 2000. The relatives then informed Naseer's son Hussain in Karachi, Roy said.
"Hussain contacted me and requested me to get his father released and send him to Pakistan," Roy added.
"I went to the Inspector General of Police (Prisons) B D Sharma and informed him of the whole incident.
Understanding the importance of the incident, he referred me to the DIG Prisons, S R Hussain," Roy said.
"We have collected some old photographs of the person and are trying to find him. He was in Alipore Central Jail in
2000 and there is every possibility that he has been shifted to some other prison," DIG (Prison) Hussain said.
"We have informed all the city jails about the incident and we are trying our best to find the person. But it is impossible to say how long it will take," Hussain said.
Meanwhile, representatives of Diganta have been able to get in touch with Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney who has promised his support, Roy said.
"Prisoners of war are no more prisoners. But how this man is still in jail is a mystery," Roy said.
"The state prison authorities have shown a positive response towards our appeal. They are taking all possible steps to trace this man and send him back to his family members," Roy added.
"Hopefully, we will be able to send him back soon," he said.