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PM's special gesture: Pak boy released from jail

August 09, 2003 00:56 IST

As a special gesture, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Friday directed that Munir, a 13-year-old Pakistani boy who strayed across the border into Rajasthan in June, be released from jail and sent back home.

An illiterate, Munir, who hails from Vatu in Bahawalpur, had strayed into Sri Ganganagar district in Rajasthan on June 26 and was immediately jailed. His father Bilal Mohammad sells kulfi in Lahore.

Munir lost his way while proceeding from Vatu to Mochipur village to borrow Rs 500 from his uncle on the instructions of his mother.

After being apprehended, he was produced before the Juvenile Justice Board.

In contravention of regulations, the boy was reportedly detained in a regular jail for a month.

It was on the intervention of the People's Union for Civil Liberties that Munir was shifted to a juvenile observation home.

He had been under detention for the past five weeks despite Indian authorities concluding that he had strayed accidentally.

He will be taken to Delhi where the Pakistan high commission will be given consular access.

"Efforts are on to have him sent back to Pakistan by Tuesday," an external affairs ministry spokesperson told reporters in Delhi.

The decision on Munir was taken keeping in view the momentum generated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's initiative to improve relations between the two countries, he said.

"People-to-people contact is a very important part of the step-by-step process," he said.

The boy's plight had come to light close on the heels of the deep impact left on Indians by two-year-old Pakistani girl Noor Fatima, who underwent heart surgery in Bangalore.

Following the successful surgery, the prime minister had offered medical treatment, at government expense, to 20 Pakistani children as a goodwill gesture.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha briefed a team of MPs visiting Pakistan from August 9-13 at the invitation of a NGO.

The MPs, who will be joined by mediapersons and some other people, are expected to meet Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf and other leaders on August 10-11.

"They are going there in individual capacities," the spokesman MEA clarified.

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