"We are just waiting for a letter/advice from the Home Department for his release. We will release him the same day," the Deputy Superintendent of Lahore Central Jail told Singh's lawyer Awais Sheikh.
Singh was arrested and charged with espionage in Pakistan in 1982. In 1985, a military court convicted and sentenced him to death but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1988 by then President Ishaq Khan. Surjit Singh completed the life sentence on October 30, 2010 but was not released.
In response to a petition, following clearance from various departments and ministries, including Defence, the Lahore High Court has ordered his release.On April 3, 2012, Awais Sheikh met him in prison, accompanied by the Deputy Superintendent Jail and a CID official. There were prisoners in jail uniform on both sides as they walked towards the room near the Indian prisoners' barracks where a special meeting with Surjit Singh had been arranged, writes Awais Sheikh in an email later that day, sent also to Aman ki Asha.
"I was going to meet a man who spent 30 long years of his life in this jail all alone. He was away from his motherland and his loved ones. I was perhaps the only lawyer in Pakistan who was meeting him in jail as his counsel...
"A tall, healthy, long-bearded man with a smiling face entered the room. 'Ke haal ae Sheikh ji? How are you?' He embraced me. This was Surjit Singh. He was in high spirits. I could guess why he was so happy. Then he said. "Shukria. Tusan badi mehnat keeti. Kal menu Deputy Superintendent ne dasya ke tera kam ho geya ae. (Thank you, you have worked hard. Yesterday the Deputy Superintendent told me that you have been successful)."We talked for an hour on different issues starting from his case, the arrest, his family in India etc... I handed over personal letters of his daughter Parvinder Kaur, gave him some fruit, as well as newspaper clippings about the news of his release orders. He was overwhelmed with the news of his release and kept asking me about the expected date."
Surjit Singh now has a copy of the letter signed by the Deputy Secretary, Government of Pakistan that the Advocate General had presented in the court, admitting that his term of imprisonment is over. The judicial committee that is due to soon meet him in jail must now follow up procedure of his release and ensure that he does not spend a day more in prison.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
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Page 30 of 175
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
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