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‘Dead man’ returns home to Bangladesh after 23 years

Anonymous caller informed a local official in May that he was alive and in jail in Pakistan

  • By Anisur Rhaman, Correspondent
  • Published: 16:13 August 1, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • Moslemuddin Sarkar (cente) who has been missing since 1989 is hugged by his brother Sekandar Ali (right) after he arrival at Dhaka airport. For 23 years, Sarkar’s family in Bangladesh thought he was dead.

Dhaka: For over two decades the family thought him to be dead but he eventually returned home on Tuesday after 23 years of disappearance while most of the time he languished in a Pakistani jail, officials and family sources said.

“The International Red Cross (ICRC) arranged his return home under our ‘restoring family links’ programme . . . Moslemuddin Sarkar returned home yesterday,” field tracing officer of the international humanitarian agency in Dhaka Roksana Zahan told Gulf News.

I crossed the border to India in 1989 and went to Delhi after staying a few months in the Indian states of Assam and Meghalaya. Later, I got married in Delhi . .. but I got caught along the India-Pakistan border when I tried to enter Pakistan in 1997

Moslemuddin Sarkar

She said the ICRS’s Pakistan unit tracked down, Sarkar, now in his early 50s, in a Pakistan jail on the basis of a tip off by the Bangladesh high commission in Islamabad with an official informing his family in Mymensingh through a local public representative that he was alive and await repatriation.

“Pakistan police arrested him in 1997 while the Pakistani authorities freed him from the jail in Karachi on Monday night to be deported immediately as the Bangladesh High Commission officials extended their hands in preparing a travel document for him to return home and saw him off at the airport,” Zahan said.

But a Bangladesh journalist working for a foreign news agency appeared to have played a major role in returning him back home getting engaged the ICRC in te process as they hailed from the same village of Bishnurampur of Fulbari upzila of Mymensingh.

“I know (Sarkar’s) family from my childhood . . . so when his younger brother informed me about the anonymous caller (of Bangladesh mission) in Pakistan from a number which could never be reached I thought the Red Cross is the appropriate authority for the task,” Julhas Alam of the Associated Press (AP) told .

But Sarkar arrived on Tuesday afternoon at the Hazrat Shahjalal Airport apparently beyond the knowledge of the immigration officials as his younger brother Sekandar Ali, Alam and Zahan.

“The bearded man (Sarkar) appeared to be in a loss of mind, still traumatised despite his sharp eyes. . . he was speaking in Urdu questioning why is being photographed at the Airport,” Alam said.

Ravaged by fatigue, Sarkar walked out of the concourse in the airport and was hugged tightly by his brother who said “I can’t believe you are alive; you are back!” but Sarkar remained silent, tears rolling down his cheeks.

“Brother, let’s go home,” Ali said. “Mother is waiting for you.” According to the family members 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. His family didn’t hear from him again until the International Committee of the Red Cross found him in the Karachi jail after the anonymous call.

Alam, who wanted to interview Sarkar on his return said, even after his return Tuesday he was reluctant to explain what had happened to him and why he ended up in a jail in Pakistan.

“I crossed the border to India in 1989 and went to Delhi after staying a few months in the Indian states of Assam and Meghalaya. Later, I got married in Delhi . .. but I got caught along the India-Pakistan border when I tried to enter Pakistan in 1997,” he said.

He added: ‘You are the boy of my village I will tell you everything later . . . let me see my mother first”.

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