MUMBAI – It was a warm and emotional ‘ghar-wapsi’ for a young Mumbai couple that had been embroiled in a fake drugs peddling case and ended up spending nearly 21 months in a Qatar jail.
On their return early this morning to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (SCMIA) on a Qatar Airways flight, the couple – Shareeq Qureshi and his wife Oniba – was carrying a tiny bundle of joy, daughter Aayat who was born inside the jail in a foreign land.
“We cannot forget these past two years… We were trapped and entangled in a case with which we not even remotely connected,” said Shareeq with moist eyes on reaching his motherland.
Oniba said: “Life was indeed very tough, since I was expecting (a baby)” and the couple had been shattered emotionally by the incident although the Qatar jail authorities took good care of the expectant mother.
Accompanied by his wife, Shareeq – working for a Japanese company – had left India in July 2019, on a ‘second honeymoon’ sponsored by his seemingly generous-hearted aunt Tasneem Qureshi.
Upon landing at the Hamad International Airport in Dohar, the couple was arrested after the Qatar Police found 4.1 kg hashish in their baggage.
It later transpired that Shareeq’s aunt had quietly used them to courier the drug consignment under the pretext of sending the couple on a ‘second honeymoon’ to this Gulf nation.
She had requested her unsuspecting nephew and his wife to hand over the bag, ostensibly containing ‘gutka’ and ‘zarda’, to a contact in Qatar as these items are very expensive in that country.
Though the couple was reluctant for the so-called ‘second honeymoon’ trip, they had accepted it, even promised to carry the parcel for their aunt and ended up landing in a huge mess.
Qatar courts found them guilty and awarded them both 10 years jail terms besides a fine of 300,000 riyals each.
Their desperate families in Mumbai ran from pillar to post, made all-out efforts with the Centre, and even the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to help them out from the crisis.
The NCB entered the picture, helped bust the drug trafficking module involved in this case, challenged a lower court verdict and also pursued the matter with the Qatar government through diplomatic channels.
Finally, after a series of hearings and challenges, the Qatar Supreme Court considered and appreciated the fresh evidence produced before it and subsequently ordered their release.
An extremely relieved NCB Deputy Director K.P.S. Malhotra said that the case was an epitome of the government-media symbiotic relationship which he had taken up after he recovered from Covid-19 in mid-2020.
“This was one of the most satisfying investigations of my career and I owe a lot to the media for its support,” Malhotra said as the couple returned to India. -IANS