After languishing in jail, Moslemuddin returns from Pakistan after 23 years!

In a much unexpected occurrence, the elderly mother gets her young son back, though as an aged man. Photo: STAR

For 23 years, his family in Bangladesh thought he was dead. But then an anonymous caller informed a local official in May that he was alive and in jail in Pakistan.

On Tuesday, 52-year-old Moslemuddin Sarkar, who had been missing since 1989, returned home to Bishnupur village under Rangamatia union in Phulbaria upazila, Mymensingh.

Pakistani officials freed him from prison in Karachi on Monday night and immediately deported him, reports AP.

Sarkar, bearded and sharp-eyed but ravaged by fatigue, walked out of the concourse in Dhaka’s airport, to be hugged tight by his brother Sekandar Ali. “I can’t believe you are alive; you are back!” Ali said. “Brother, let’s go home. Mother is waiting for you.”

Sarkar had left home one morning in 1989 after a brief visit, telling his family he was returning to his job as a dock worker at Chittagong seaport.

The family did not hear from him again until the International Committee of the Red Cross found him in the Karachi jail following the anonymous call.

After Sarkar’s disappearance, Ali visited the shipyard to search for him, but was told he had not returned to work. “We waited for months, years, and finally thought he was no more,” Ali said. “Otherwise, why wouldn’t he inform us where he was?”

Even after his return on Tuesday, Sarkar was reluctant to explain what had happened to him and why he ended up in a jail in Pakistan, adds AP.

After Sarkar’s family learned from the anonymous caller that he was alive and in Pakistan, they were at a loss what to do. They repeatedly called the phone number from which the anonymous call had come, but were told that it was not in use. Then they learned that the Red Cross helps trace missing people and seek their repatriation.

They contacted the ICRC’s Dhaka office, which informed its delegation in Pakistan. Within days, it found that Sarkar was languishing in a Karachi jail.

Then a youth, now Sarkar is very feeble and cannot speak well. He speaks Urdu fluently but is clearly uneasy speaking in Bengali, reports our correspondent from Mymensingh after a visit to Sarkar’s village.

His mother Joynab Bibi said, “A few days before his disappearance, he came home and gave me some money and clothes as I had to depend on him. I had to struggle hard to survive in the last 25 years as I had no financial support from my son.”

She had lost every hope of her son’s return but now was overwhelmed to have found him, in what is obviously a miracle.

“Already one of my four sons has died and his [Sarkar] going missing shocked me much. Now his return gives me endless happiness,” said a joyful Joynab.

Brother Ali said they had received a letter from Sarkar around 15 years back which said he was in Karachi. He also urged his family members not to worry about him.

But as there was only the recipient’s address on the envelope, “we could not make contact with him”, said Ali.

Talking to The Daily Star, Sarkar said he had first crossed the Sylhet border with India with a view to entering Pakistan for a good job. Until 1997, he worked at a factory in Pakistan.

On his way back home, Sarkar had been arrested by law enforcers at Wagah border in Punjab. Later he was kept in Lahore Central Jail where he alleged he was subjected to severe torture.

“I was jailed for six months,” said a confused Sarkar as he could not explain why he had to serve 15 years or how he landed up in Karachi jail.

He had an opportunity to talk to some members of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission when they went to the jail on a visit and told them of his miseries. The commission then informed the National Human Rights Commission in Bangladesh and asked for necessary steps.

Later, the Bangladesh rights watchdog sought help from Bangladesh High Commission in Pakistan for his release, Sarkar added.