Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, Feb 5 – Pakistan has sent a rare message of thanks to arch-rival India after a five-year-old boy who was taken to India by his father nearly a year ago was reunited with his Pakistani mother.
Ifthikar Ahmed was handed over to Rohina Kiani by border officials in the town of Wagah in Punjab province on Saturday evening following a long legal battle seeking his return from his father, Gulzar Ahmad Tantray.
The case created a media stir and shone a spotlight on the two countries’ decades-long dispute over divided Kashmir, over which they have fought two full-scale wars.
Kiani, a resident of the Pakistani-controlled part of the territory, told AFP on Sunday she was overwhelmed with happiness and prepared to forgive her estranged husband, who is from Indian-controlled Kashmir.
“I’m extremely happy and unable to express my joy. I pardon my husband and hope he will also join us soon to live with us here in Pakistan,” she told AFP.
Tantray was among thousands who crossed the de facto border into Pakistani Kashmir while an insurgency was at its peak in the Indian sector.
He later married Kiani, but wanted the family to return to his home village following the birth of their son. When Kiani refused, Tantray absconded with the child last March.
Kiani pursued a custody case in an Indian court through the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi, and the court ruled in her favour.
“We are thankful to Indian authorities for their cooperation in this humanitarian matter,” Pakistan’s high commissioner (ambassador) Abdul Basit tweeted.
Kiani also thanked both governments, and urged them to come together to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir conflict.
“Thousands of people are suffering from grief and sorrow because of this dispute. The Kashmir issue must be solved to end problems of people living on both sides of Kashmir,” she said.
The Himalayan region has been divided between India and Pakistan since they won independence from Britain in 1947, but both claim the territory in its entirety.
Several rebel groups have for decades fought Indian troops deployed in the region, demanding its independence or merger with Pakistan.