After four weeks of high drama in Australia, the terror charges against Indian Doctor Mohammed Haneef were dropped. Apparently, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP) admitted a mistake had been made.
Dr Haneef was charged with having links with the unsuccessful terror plot in London and Glasgow in June. He was arrested by Australia Federal Police (AFP) under the new Australian anti-terror law. Under this law, a person can be held at any unknown location if suspected of being involved or of supporting terrorism.
Dr Haneef was arrested at Brisbane Airport on July 2 on his way back to India on a one-way ticket. Australian Federal Police arrested him on the charge that he provided support to a terrorist organisation by giving his mobile phone SIM card to his cousin in England and that the SIM card was found in the vehicle used for the failed bomb blast near Glasgow airport. Dr Haneef was held in isolation under the tight security in Wolston Correctional Centre.
Haneef’s story has been leading news in the Australian media for the last four weeks. The entire Indian community in Australia was concerned, especially the significant numbers of Indian doctors who have a good reputation.
Very hastily the Indian Government acted. The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, directed the Indian diplomats stationed in Canberra and Sydney to make every effort to make sure that Dr Haneef was given the legal assistance he required. The Prime Minister contacted Haneef’s wife and his other family members in Bangalore and promised to provide full assistance to Dr Haneef to make sure he got justice.
Indian Government without wasting time dispatched Minister of State for External Affairs Mr E. Ahmed to see Ms Ferdous Arshiya, wife of Dr Haneef, in Bangalore. Mr Ahmed assured Ms Arshiya that everything would be done by New Delhi to see that Dr Haneef was treated fairly in Australia. The Indian investigators were unable to come up with anything substantial against Dr Haneef. Presenting their conclusive report senior Indian police investigators said they had not found any evidence against Dr Haneef. This report from Indian investigators put huge pressure on the Australian investigation team.
Mr Ahmed made urgent travel arrangements, including the granting of an Australian visa from Australian Authorities, for Ms Arshiya’s cousin, Imran Siddiqui, to visit Australia and provide moral support and assistance to Dr Haneef. Mr Ahmed said it was the duty of the Indian Government to ensure the welfare of all Indians residing abroad.
Finally, on Friday, July 27, 2007, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the terror charge against Dr Haneef when Australian authorities failed to produce enough evidence against him. Haneef was freed and he returned home with his cousin and lawyer.
Dr Haneef’s case is a good lesson for the Pakistani Government. Since 9-11, Pakistan has been a front line partner of the US and Western countries in the war against terrorism. The Pakistani Government arrested more than 700 people, allegedly involved in terrorist activity, and many of them were handed over to the US.
On the other hand, many Pakistanis were arrested in the UK, the US and Australia, charged with terrorism under these countries’ newly created anti-terror laws. In Australia a 36-year-old Pakistani, architect engineer Fahim Khalid Lodhi, was sentenced to 20 years in jail in August 2006.
Of course, Fahim received the judgment from the Supreme Court of Australia; nevertheless, nothing was heard from the Pakistani government or Pakistani diplomats when Fahim was first arrested and while he was facing trial. Fahim always denied the charges against him. He was not provided any legal or moral support by the Pakistani government. Not a single statement came from any Pakistani official that might have helped Fahim defend himself in the court.
In 2001, a Pakistan, Shahraz Kayani, set himself on fire outside Australian Parliament House, in Canberra. He struggled between life and death in intensive care before finally leaving this world. Shahraz death shocked the Pakistanis living in Australia terribly. Shahraz Kayani had come from Pakistan and had been accepted in Australia as a refugee. Repeated attempts by his wife and daughters to join him in Australia were rejected on the grounds that one of the daughters suffers from cerebral palsy.
Shahraz Kayani appealed many times to Pakistani officials for assistance but he never received any advice, counselling or help.
Overseas Pakistanis play a vital role in the ongoing economy of the country. They are a highly valuable human resource for Pakistan; they are the true ambassadors of Pakistan And they contribute hard cash to the country’s reserves.
The Pakistani government claims to look after them but the fact is the Pakistani diaspora hardly have any benefits or support provided to them. Especially in a situation where, in the name of a war against terrorism, Pakistanis living overseas are treated with suspicion. When arrested they are entitled to expect help from their motherland. Unfortunately, these patriotic Pakistanis hardly get any help or even moral support from the Pakistani Government.