After Dr Chishty’s conviction, his daughter Amna Chishty contacted Aman ki Asha in April 2011 for help, requesting that he be brought home alive. Shortly after, Aman ki Asha – a joint peace initiative of the two largest media groups of India and Pakistan, The Times of India and the Jang Group respectively, started the campaign for Dr Chishty’s release rigorously highlighting the frail health of the 80 year gentleman, the need for his speedy release and the fact that he needed to be among his family members at this stage of life.
After his conviction, various prominent Indians took up the task to pressurize the government for a quick release of the Pakistani scientist. In early 2011, India’s veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, retired Indian Navy chief Admiral L Ramdas, Secretary General of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Kavita Srivastava, and journalist Jatin Desai sent letters of appeal to the President of India as well as the Governor of Rajasthan, urging them to release Dr Khalil Chishty.
In June 2011 Indian Supreme Court Justice Markandeya Katju also requested to PM Manmohan Singh to expedite the release of Dr Chishty on humanitarian grounds, which was approved by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and forwarded the Rajasthan Governor, Shivraj Patil.
According to news reports, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and others in the government unanimously agreed that Dr Chishty be released, however the Governor of Rajasthan Shivraj Patil thought otherwise. Governor Shivraj Patil didn’t sign Dr Chishty’s clemency petition despite the fact that the State Government had given it the clear in May 2011, putting up several questions for the state government to answer, which were all answered accordingly. After which efforts to seek his release only intensified. Things were not destined to pan out as smoothly as they could have and Dr Chishty had to wait for another ten months for a positive step towards his release.
Dr Khalil Chishty had gone to visit his frail mother and family in Ajmer, where he got caught in a family feud that resulted in the death of one person. According to his family, Dr Chishty’s family had a dispute ; and after one of the member was shot they escaped through the rooftop. As things turned out Dr Chishty, who had merely been an onlooker of this incident was arrested on charges of murder, and his ordeal for the next 20 years was set into motion.
Police constables, who had been stationed outside Dr Chishty’s family home in Ajmer since the family had been receiving threats, confirmed that Dr Chishty was downstairs during the entire incident. Also, as Dr Chishty had revealed, he had only gone on the rooftop after hearing that his nephew had been injured.
The fatal shots had been fired by Dr Chishty’s nephew who had also told the media, “”I was a juvenile then so they could not make me an accused. Since chacha jaan is a Pakistani, they found him an easy target. Even though I was detained but I was released.”
His trial stretched over 18 years and in 2010 he was awarded life-imprisonment for murder and an appeal to the Hight Court was also rejected. During this period his physical health deteriorated and his mental health was also affected. He was also kept under house arrest in his ancestral home in Hatundi near Ajmer. All this time Dr Chishty maintained his innocence but respected the law of the land.
He had a history of heart attacks and in March 2010 he fell from bed fracturing his hip. He was unable to get surgery and suffered another heart attack on the operating table. The doctors didn’t want to take a risk, and his hip was not operated upon. After which he was unable to walk and had to be carried.
Dr Chishty’s wife and family visited him in India but that was not enough. They repeatedly pleaded for his release citing his deteriorating bad health and heightened depression on being virtually bed-ridden. They feared that Dr Chishty might never be able to live the life of a free man.
Here’s hoping the 20 years of frustration and waiting of Chishty family will soon be over and forgotten once Dr Khalil Chishty returns into their folds. And we hope this step will help to further ameliorate the relationship between the two countries. Pakistan appreciates all those who strived for the release of Dr Chishty in India, and hope that such efforts continue on both side in the name of peace. This is a positive step towards the fulfillment of the Aman ki Asha that the people of the two countries have always harbored.