ISLAMABAD: Geo News television is the latest to confirm that the lone gunman captured during the Mumbai carnage does indeed belong to a village in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
The channel’s 9 p.m. news report on Friday showed footage of people at Faridkot in Deepalpur tehsil, Okara district in south Punjab talking about Mohammad Ajmal Amir (‘Kasab’) as a boy from the village who had last been seen four or five months ago.
“He told his mother to give him her blessings as he was going for jihad,” one old man told the Geo reporter.
Another man said he had seen him playing with children outside a school on his last visit home, challenging them to catch hold of him. “He was showing off some karate moves,” the man said.
After days of dismissing Indian media reports on the Faridkot-Mumbai connection as “unsubstantiated,” and as a campaign to defame their country, the Pakistani media have started doing their own legwork on the allegations.
Earlier, Dawn newspaper managed to trace Ajmal’s father in Faridkot. The man who said he was Amir ‘Kasab’, confirmed to Dawn that the youth whose face had been beamed over the media was his son.
“I was in denial for the first couple of days, saying to myself it could not have been my son,” he told Dawn in the courtyard of his house in Faridkot, a village of about 2,500 people just a few kilometres from Deepalpur on the way to Kasur. “Now I have accepted it.”
The report, published in Friday’s edition of the paper, was a confirmation of a report by The Observer last weekend. The London weekly tracked down Ajmal’s grandfather in Faridkot and managed to lay its hands on electoral records that showed his mother and father to be residents of the village.
Amir, a father of three boys and two girls, said his son disappeared from home four years ago. “He had asked me for new clothes on Eid that I couldn’t give him. He got angry and left,” he said. Reports said Ajmal went to Lahore in search of a job. After a brush with crime in that city, he reportedly joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
As Amir was talking to Dawn’s correspondents, Ajmal’s two sisters and a younger brother stood nearby. Their mother, wrapped in a ‘chador’, lay on a charpoy.
“Her trance was broken as the small picture of Ajmal lying in a Mumbai hospital was shown around. They appeared to have identified their son. The mother shrunk back in her chador, but the father said he had no problem talking about the subject,” the Dawn reported.
Amir said he settled in Faridkot after arriving from the nearby Haveli Lakha many years ago. He owned the house the family lived in and made a living selling ‘pakoras’ on the streets of the village.
“This is all I have,” he said pointing to a handcart in one corner of the courtyard. “I shifted back to the village after doing the same job in Lahore.”
“My eldest son, Afzal, is also back after a stint in Lahore. He is out working in the fields.”
Amir said he had little say in Ajmal’s life since the day his son walked out on him. He calls the “people who snatched Ajmal from him his enemies, but has no clue [to] who these enemies are.”
Asked why he did not look for his son all this while, he said: “What could I do with the few resources that I have?”
Though mild-mannered, Amir became agitated at the “mention of the link between his son’s actions and money.”
Media reports had said that Ajmal’s handlers had promised him that his family would be compensated with Rs.1,50,000 after the completion of the Mumbai mission. “I don’t sell my sons,” Amir said.