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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Pakistani poet's plea for democracy
Army coup in Pakistan changed everything: Aftab Hussain
Pakistani writer Aftab Hussein who has sought political asylum in India says he will only return home when democracy is restored.

Mr Hussain sought asylum saying that he was being harassed by the Pakistani authorities for publishing poems by the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee.

He left Pakistan in March, and is currently in India on a visitor's visa, which expires on 15 June.

"I was born a Pakistani. I love Pakistan and have my family and my friends there," Mr Hussain told BBC News Online.

"That is why I have only asked for a political asylum in India, not a citizenship".

Mr Vajpayee's poetry talked about peace and love. That is why I decided to get it published.

Aftab Hussain, Pakistani writer

The writer's woes began after noted Indian Urdu poet Jameel Akhtar sent him translations of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's poetry, with a request that it be published in Pakistan.

"This was just before Mr Vajpayee made his historic bus trip to Lahore. Since the poems talked about peace and love, I decided to get them published."

Mr Hussain says he was even invited to present the book to the Indian prime minister at a function in the Lahore's governor house.

"But when the military took over power in October 1999, everything changed. The intelligence agencies enquired about my earlier trips to India, and asked me who I met and what I did."

The army enquired about my earlier trips to India, and wanted to know what I did during these trips.

Aftab Hussain, Pakistani writer
"They even wanted me to give a written statement that Mr Sharif had asked me to publish the book. When I refused, they threatened me," Mr Hussain alleges.

On 16 March, he arrived in India on the Samjhauta Express - the only train which runs between India and Pakistan.

Mr Hussain's writer friends helped him put in an application for political asylum in May.

He is one of the few Pakistanis ever to have made such an application.

"It has almost been a month since and I haven't received a reply from the foreign ministry," Mr Hussain says.

"But I can tell you this much. I'll return to Pakistan the day a popular government assumes power."

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