Mumbai: Happiness knew no bounds for the Nagpada-based couple Shareeq and Oniba Qureshi when their flight touched down at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Terminus in Mumbai early on Thursday morning after spending 21 months in a prison in Qatar on charges of trafficking 4.1 kilograms of hashish which was planted by Shareeq’s paternal aunt. And tears of happiness flowed when they were once again united with their family members.
But what Shareeq and Oniba went through will remain etched to their memories for life. “It felt like life had ended for us when the court pronounced the ten-year jail term for us,” said Shareeq recalling the day the judgement was pronounced. The law in Qatar for carrying drugs are stringent, and all pleas of being innocent fell on deaf ears, said Shareeq.
“They were just not willing to listen to anything that we said. And then the authorities in Qatar separated us, and put is two separate prison,” said Shareeq. But what breaks down Shareeq still is the fact that he could not see his new born baby for eight months. "On February 26, 2020, my daughter Aayat was born inside a jail in Qatar but despite my repeated pleas, I was not allowed to see her even once. It was only after eight months of struggle that I got to see her and take her in my arms. I still cry remembering that moment," said Shareeq who choked remembering the moment.
The couple said that prison facilities in Qatar were good, and that they were given food thrice a day. "Prison facilities were good in Qatar, but it did not matter to us much. Because we had not committed any crime. We knew that from within," said Oniba, who just could not stop thanking the Indian government and god for giving her family justice.
Shareeq remembers the fateful day when he took a flight to Qatar in July 2019. “Nizam Kara, the accused who has been arrested, gave us a bag and told us that our flight had arrived and we should move immediately to catch the flight. He did not give us any opportunity to check the bag. It was only after we reached Hamad International Airport that we were told that drugs were found from the bag,” said Shareeq, who along with Oniba, were stunned the moment Qatar authorities stopped them.
“I had lost all hopes of coming back to Mumbai, and I would make a call to my husband and family in Mumbai and then wait for the next opportunity. There wasn’t a single day when I would not cry. When you are delivering your first child, you would expect your husband, parents and relatives to be around you. You would expect to celebrate the arrival of a new born. But I was all alone, and it was nerve wracking,” said Oniba.
During my stay in the prison, I came across other Indian women as well who were trapped in similar drug cases, and were languishing in the prison, said Oniba. “I just pray to God that like us, he shows some mercy on them as well," said Oniba.