Wives of Indian MV Suez hostages grateful for Pakistan’s role
By: Sidrah Roghay
Karachi: With the government, human rights activists and the media of Pakistan all having played a pivotal role in securing the release of the hostages on board the MV Suez vessel, the wives of two of the freed Indian seamen decided to visit the country and express their gratitude for the return of their loved ones.
While Sanpa Arya’s husband refused to tell his wife about the “bad times”, Madhu Sharma’s spouse finally started sharing small details of his suffering at the hands of Somali pirates. Apart from being frequently gun-butted, he was only allowed to drink half a glass of water daily and eat a small portion of rice every alternate day.
“He had broken teeth by the time he was rescued by the Ansar Burney Trust and the government of Pakistan,” shared Sharma.
Their husbands, Ravinder Singh and MK Sharma, were two of the crew members on board the MV Suez — the ship which was taken hostage by Somali pirates last year. With the Indian men safely back home, Sanpa Arya and Madhu decided to visit Pakistan and appreciate the country that saved the lives of their husbands. As part of the tour, they visited the Geo Television office in Karachi.
“Our perceptions about Pakistan changed over the course of a year. There were moments when local politicians discouraged us from putting too much trust in Burney. He was a Pakistani after all. We’re just glad we made the right decision,” said an overjoyed Sanpa.
The two women thanked Aman ki Asha, the media, human rights activists and the government of Pakistan for supporting their husbands, despite their nationality.
“In India, we actually have a lobby that supports Ansar Burney. Ninety-nine percent of its members are Hindu,” smiles Sanpa Arya.
Ansar Burney, who was accompanying both women, used the occasion to thank Shuja Pasha, the then head of ISI. “I do not care if he heads a spy agency. He allowed the Indians to board Pakistani aircraft and ships.”
He also thanked the Pakistan Navy for providing security as the rescued crew members were being brought back to Pakistan. “We approached the Indian navy as well, but they refused to help.”
Burney discussed his adventures with the enthusiasm of a teenager. “We were constantly in touch with the pirates and actually signed an agreement with them. The money needed to reach them in the form of cash within a particular timeframe and we had to send a currency checking machine. Not more than a 100 currency notes could be fake. If any one of these conditions were not met, the hostages could die, and we would be responsible for their deaths. I can’t believe I signed it,” he exclaimed.
He recalled that in Egypt, he was handed US$2.1 million in cash, which was to be given to the pirates. “The plane taking the money to the pirates could not fly till the morning. I was scared. If I got robbed, the Pakistanis would think I gobbled up the money. I called up a few Egyptian friends and we spent the entire night inside a car in a parking lot, staying on guard.”
During the whole time, he remembers telling everyone he met to pray in their “church, temple or mosque”. “He must have heard someone’s plea,” Burney smiled.
The women were preparing to go back home with a lot of pleasant memories. “I do not know who created these barriers. These people are so much like my own,” said Madhu Sharma.
Sanpa Arya, on the other hand, planned to enroll in a course which teaches her to write Urdu. “It’s a beautiful script,” she said.