New Delhi: It was a harrowing time for the family of an Indian journalist based in Pakistan while returning home as they found cash and jewellery missing after Pakistani security officials searched their belongings at the Attari border.
Earrings and several pieces of jewellery besides Rs 10,000 in cash were missing after their luggage was opened by the officials before they embarked on the Lahore-Delhi bus
last Monday, the family complained.
The family was also forced to part with a bottle of sunscreen lotion.
But their travails did not end after crossing the border with Indian immigration officials questioning them for over an hour.
Giving a first-hand account of her ordeal, Lamat R Hasan, wife of a news agency’s Islamabad correspondent Rezaul H Laskar, said, "I was excited about crossing the Indo-Pak border using the land route for the first time until I stepped into the immigration office at Attari at about 8 am on May 17."
At Attari, an officer on seeing her passport curtly
told her that she is not allowed to use the land route to
cross the border.
To use the land route, Indian journalists are required
to have a mention of the point of entry in their visas or else
they have to take special permission from officials concerned.
"I had always flown to Pakistan and this was the first
time that I was using the land route. I told the officer that
my visa does not entitle me to cross the Wagah border on foot,
but I am permitted to take the bus," Lamat said.
She said she was not allowed to use the telephone by
the officials who claimed it was not functioning.
When she told them that she would like to inform the
agency office that she was stuck at the border, the officer said,
"Don`t impress me with your press credentials."
Lamat said she was also not allowed to meet her
parents-in-law and sister-in-law, who were accompanying her.
According to her, she was asked all types of
questions -- "when did you go to Pakistan"; "when was your
last visit to India?"; "what do you do in Pakistan?"; "what
does your husband do there?"; "why did you decide to board the
bus and not fly..." and "how many Pakistanis do you know?"
Lamat was allowed to go back to the lounge only after
she gave the Indian High Commissioner`s number as her
reference in Islamabad.
"I sat in the lounge for another 30 minutes before I
was allowed to cross the border in the bus."
But that was not it, said Lamat. An officer handed a
sheet of paper asking her to write that she is innocent. She
faced more questions when she refused.