By Zulifqar Ali / Special to the Santiago Times
Two mothers from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, whose sons are in Indian custody for more than six months on the allegation of facilitating a militant attack on Uri camp, are sickly worried about their children’s safe return.
“My son is innocent, please could someone bring him home,” says Raqiqa Bibi, the mother of 19-years old Ahsan Khursheed, with tears rolling down her cheeks. She has appealed with India to release her boy immediately.
Two boys from Pakistan-administered Kashmir in Indian custody for last six months
Faisal’s elder brother, Dr. Mustafa says their mother “dies and lives every day” while hoping for her son’s return.
On September 24, last year, the Indian media reported that the two boys from Muzaffarabad were arrested in Uri region on the Indian side of LoC – which divides the disputed region of Kashmir – three days after the militant attack.
It was claimed in the Indian media that they had acted as ‘guides’ for the attackers. “They have revealed so far that they were recruited by Jaish-e-Mohammed two years ago, and were guiding the militants to infiltrate across the Line of Control (LoC) in Uri,” the Indian media quoted a senior army official as saying.
Ahsan Khurshid and Faisal Hussain, students of Class 10 in Muzaffarabad, have been detained in India for more than six months.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs also claimed that the two had “confessed to facilitating the infiltration of a group of four Jaish-e-Muhammad cadre who carried out the Uri army camp attack.” Later, the Indian officials contradicted their earlier statement and attributed the attack to Lashkar-e-Taiba, not the Jaish-e-Muhammad.
This dramatic change in the MEA’s/ministry’s stance, analysts say, is a clear proof that Indian claim about involvement of boys was false and its previous claim was aimed at giving an impression that the attackers came from Pakistan.
The alleged Uri camp attack was taken place on Sept 18 in which India said its 19 soldiers were killed and 17 others were injured.
Ahsan Khursheed, son of Mohammed Khursheed, hails from Khilyana -a village near the LoC in Chakothi sector; while Faisal Hussain, son of Gul Akbar, belongs to Potta Jadgran, Komikote, some 25 kilometers from Muzaffarabbad.
Their families refute the Indian allegations and say the boys might have crossed the Line of control inadvertently.
A report in the Indian Express echoed this when it said the Indian officials also believed that they were innocent.
The families also carry clear evidence to show that both the boys were in Azad Kashmir at the time of Uri attack. They were even present in AJK on Sept 20, two days after the attack.
The students of Class 10 in Shaheen Model School, Muzaffarabad, who are also close friends, possibly went on a trip to Pir Kanthi top close to the LoC on September 20.
Pir Kanthi is a scenic place located close to the Line of Control in Bagh district in Azad Kashmir. It is estimated to be 10,796 ft (3,291 m) above sea level.
Ahsan Khursheed’s mother said her son called her on Sept 18 to seek her permission to go to Pir Kanthi peak. He also told her that his friends would also be accompanying him.
Raqiqa says she told him to visit home before going to Pir Kanthi. “He (Ahsan) told me he will visit home if he took the route to Pir Kanthi from our village Khalana. He also said if he took alternate route via southern district Bagh then he might visit home on his return.”
Pir Kanthi top can be accessed both from the border town of Chakothi and the Southern district Bagh.
There was no conversation between Ahsan and his mother on Sept 19.
Ahsan’s mother says that her son called her many a times on the morning of September 20, but she couldn’t attend his calls.
On September 20, Ahsan’s mobile phone was working until 4.30 pm and then went dead, presumably because there are no phone signals beyond the town of Hatian Bala on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.
The link road near Chakothi town, where Srinagar and Muzaffarabad are connected by a bridge, leads to Ahsan’s village and from there it is a few hours track to Pir Kanthi.
It is believed Ahsan’s friend, Faisal was also with him.
According to Faisal’s brother Yasir, he left home in the afternoon after lunch and might have met Ahsan in Muzaffarabad and both of them proceeded to Pir kanthi via Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road.
Ahsan might have not visited his home because it was at a distance and he and his friend were already late. They might have preferred to go to Pir kanthi directly.
Many families and youngsters visit the place in summer.
Villagers living below Pir Kanthi also move up there for the pastureland in summers and stay there for 3-4 months.
LOC is not demarcated in this area and Pakistani and Indians position are at a distance from each other. It is believed that these two teenagers might have strayed to the Indian side or they might have lost their way while attempting to take a shorter route and ended up across the LoC where they were picked up by Indian soldiers.
Had there been no emergency due to the Uri attack, the Indians might not have noticed their movement.
According to school record, Ahsan was present in school on Sept 19; his Islamiat class work was checked and signed by the teacher that day. However, Faisal didn’t attend the school in the month of Sept and Ahsan went to school only on Sept 19.
The Indian media’s claim that the Jaish e -Mohammad group imparted them 2-year training in arms, is ridiculous as both were attending schools and passed 9th grade exam a few months before when they went missing.
Faisal Awan was a Science student who had just graduated from Class IX with a first division.
Many people in Pakistan-administered Kashmir believe that there are remote chances that any group will recruit 12 and 15 years old children.
They ask if they were trained, then how come they were not carrying weapons when they were arrested three days after the attack. They also say if they were mere guides, why they would stay in the town for three days after the attack.
There is no evidence that the young students ever had any link with any militant group nor is there any evidence that militants ever hired teenagers as guides.