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Widowed Indian returns alleging torture

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Press Trust of India
Saturday, July 12, 2008 (Attari (Punjab))
After her fairytale online courtship and marriage across the border abruptly ended in widowhood two months ago, a pregnant Asha Patil on Saturday returned to India alleging that she was kept imprisoned in a room for many days by her in-laws in Lahore.

The Mumbai resident, who took the name Ayesha Khalid on converting to Islam, told reporters at the Wagah-Attari border that she underwent ''mental agony and physical torture'' after her husband Mumtaz Khalid, a Lahore stockbroker, died.

''We had gone to attend a marriage where Khalid suffered a massive heart attack and died. Just two days earlier, we had come to know that I was two months pregnant,'' she said.

The 28-year-old said she experienced ''a hellish life'' from then on, with Khalid's brother-in-law Yasin Chattha and parents ''keeping me imprisoned in a single room for many days''.

Patil alleged that the family mounted pressure on her to leave Pakistan as soon as possible, holding her responsible for Khalid's death, but thanked the Pakistani government, media and people for their cooperation and support.

She expressed gratitude to Lahore police who on the instance of a local NGO and politicians ''rescued me from solitary confinement''.

The young widow plans to go back during the advanced stages of pregnancy and also intends a pilgrimage to Mecca.

''It was my husband's wish that the child should be born on Pakistan's soil. He told me that if it's a boy he should be named Khalid and if a girl, the name should be Fatima,'' Patil said.

Patil said Chattha was arrested by Lahore police following her complaint and granted interim bail after a ''written assurance'' from the family that she would neither be harassed nor prevented from going to India.

Her in-laws had returned her jewellery and passport and the Pakistani authorities made arrangements for her return to Mumbai.

''I have been also been provided police protection at the Hasilpur residence of my husband in Lahore,'' she said.

For the past few weeks, Ayesha had been living with a cleric associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in Lahore.

Her marriage was the culmination of a protracted courtship of six years after meeting in an Internet chatroom in 2000.

The couple married on the web in 2006 and Patil converted to Islam before coming to Pakistan last year.

After Khalid's death at the age of 30, Patil registered an FIR against her in-laws accusing them of harassing and torturing her.

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