Pakistan says deaf-mute Indian woman Geeta to return home this month

KARACHI: A deaf-mute woman who lost her family when she wandered over one of the world's most militarised borders as a child will return to India this month, officials at the Pakistani charity where she has been living for years said on Thursday.

Geeta, a Hindu woman now in her early twenties, was around 11 years old when she inadvertently crossed the border from India to Pakistan.

It was a mistake that would lead to a long search for her family that captivated the public after a hit film with a similar plot was released this year.

On Thursday, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad emailed pictures of a family in Bihar, India’s third-most populous state, to the charitable Edhi Foundation where Geeta now lives in the port city of Karachi.

She recognised the people in the photographs as her parents and siblings.

“The Indian government had already given us probable dates of 19 or 26 October,” Anwar Kazmi, an Edhi official told Reuters about Geeta’s travel plans. “Documentation is being prepared for the departure dates.”

Sushma Swaraj, Indian minister for external affairs, tweeted: "Geeta will be back in India soon. We have located her family. She will be handed over to them only after the DNA test."

Hostilities have kept apart many families who were separated when majority-Hindu India and majority-Muslim Pakistan became separate countries in 1947. The neighbours have fought three wars since the partition.

The movie "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" was released last month. Superstar Salman Khan plays an Indian man who finds a mute Pakistani girl and tries to reunite her with her family.

The scriptwriters were unaware of Geeta's story, but the movie led to a surge in interest in her case.

Diplomacy between India and Pakistan has been less uplifting. The two countries' leaders agreed in July that negotiations to settle longstanding disputes should be resumed, but a month later India called off the talks following a series of militant attacks that New Delhi has blamed on Pakistan.