Indian woman stranded in Pakistan to be repatriated

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lost girl pakistan india holmes pkg_00003828

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Story highlights

  • Woman stranded in Pakistan for over a decade ready to go home, Indian government says
  • The woman, who is deaf and cannot speak, was unable to identify herself, her family or where she was from
  • The success of a blockbuster which chronicles a similar situation has brought "Geeta's" case prominence

(CNN)An Indian woman who was stranded in Pakistan for years but couldn't confirm her name or identify her family, is set to go home after a Bollywood movie galvanized a campaign to bring her back.

Identified only as "Geeta," the details of how she arrived in Pakistan, when she was just a child, are sketchy. One local media source said that she was found sitting alone on the Samjhauta Express at a Lahore railway station by Pakistan Rangers.
    Her purported family lives in Bihar province, in the east of India and over a thousand miles from Pakistan.
    Now 22, she may have been in the country for as long as 11 years, living in a Karachi shelter run by the Edhi Foundation. Not knowing her true name, the workers at the shelter re-christened her Geeta.
    She was handed to the shelter by local police and the Pakistan Rangers, Faisal Edhi, Trustee of Edhi Foundation, told CNN.
    "The Indian Embassy has issued the travel documents to Geeta and Pakistan has given her permission to travel to India," he said. "She will leave Karachi on October 26."
    At a weekly briefing, Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khallilullah reiterated his counterpart's statement.
    "We have completed all formalities on our part for repatriation of Geeta," he told journalists. "The Indian side has already been informed accordingly. We, therefore, are waiting for response from the Indian High Commission regarding the mode of her return."

    Speech, hearing difficulties

    Attempts to repatriate her have been stymied by her significant speech and hearing difficulties -- she was unable to give her real name, identify her family or, indeed, where she was from.
    The news of her whereabouts first surfaced in 2012 when officials from the Indian Consulate in Islamabad met her in Karachi but the campaign to bring her home really gained momentum after the success of a blockbuster Bollywood movie, "Bajrangi Bhaijaan," which deals with a similar subject -- Shahida, a deaf-mute Pakistani girl trapped in India.
    The movie, which stars Salman Khan, one of the subcontinent's most popular actors, has brought the case unprecedented prominence.
    Last week, the star weighed in on the case.
    "(The) Government is looking into it," he said in an interview Saturday. "And they are competent and should take this forward. If she agrees and they find her rightful parents, this should definitely be done."

    Repatriation fast-tracked

    The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has informed its Pakistani counterpart that the government has accepted Geeta as its citizen and formalities are underway to get her back. Exterior Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that the young woman would be back in India "soon."
    Use of the "#Geeta" hashtag has skyrocketed in the past few days.
    Following the increased interest in the case, the government was contacted by several families who claimed that Geeta could have been their daughter.
    The Indian High Commission sent several sets of photos to the shelter in Karachi that she has called her home for the past decade. From one set of the images, she recognized her parents, who have not yet been officially identified.

    DNA tests

    And now, she has finally been paired with her family after a decade in the Karachi shelter. A MEA spokesperson said DNA testing would be conducted to verify that she is indeed the child of the family that she identified in the photo.
    However, the spokesperson said that her nationality was not in question, and her repatriation not dependent on finding her family.
    "Geeta's Indian nationality has already been verified, very soon she will be brought back to India because, you see, our bringing her back to India is not dependent on whether or not we discover her parents," the official said.
    "She is the daughter of India, it is our duty to bring her back to India, we will be bringing her back to India very very shortly."