"Good news for the family of Surjeet Singh and the people of India. He will go home within one week of today 23-05-2102," wrote Lahore- based advocate Awais Sheikh in an email last week.
On May 23, a special meeting was held at the Home Department, Government of the Punjab, Civil Secretariat, Lahore, where it was decided that Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh would be repatriated by the end of this month.
"I will be at Wagah border to say goodbye to him. Thanks to God Almighty for his blessings," writes Sheikh.
Surjeet Singh (different from another Indian prisoner, Sarabjit Singh whose case Sheikh has also taken up) was arrested in 1982 on charges of spying. A military court convicted him and awarded the death sentence. Later, during Benazir Bhutto's regime, then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. Despite having completed 25 years in September, 2004, Surjeet Singh was not released.
After meeting his daughter and son in Amritsar last year advocate Awais Sheikh filed a writ petition on Surjeet Singh's behalf in the Lahore High Court, stating that he had been languishing in prison even after completing his jail term and requesting the court to direct the secretary of foreign affairs and superintendent of Central Jail Lahore to include his name in the list of foreigner prisoners who had completed their jail term and were being repatriated. "There is no law to keep a prisoner in jail after completion of his sentence," observed Chief Justice Lahore High Court Manzoor Ahmad Malik.
In response to the Ministry of Interior dragging its feet he threatened to decide the case exparte if the Ministry did not submit its report within a stipulated time. On May 8, the Punjab home department finally informed the Court that Surjeet Singh had been given civil internee status and would be sent back to India within three months.
A home department letter to this effect, sent earlier to the superintendent of Central Jail Lahore, was presented to Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik. The superintendent of Kot Lakhpat jail, Lahore, had submitted a report at the previous hearing stating that although Surjeet Singh's jail term had expired, his fate could only be decided after directions from the General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi and the presidency.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial of the Lahore High Court last week disposed of a petition seeking to locate Madan Lal, an Indian citizen imprisoned in Pakistan who was believed to have mistakenly entered the country in 1967 and arrested. The Punjab IG Prisons stated that the said Indian national Madan Lal is not in any jail in Punjab.
The court rejected the plea of advocate Awais Sheikh asking the court to issue directions to the Interior Ministry to provide information about Madan Lal's whereabouts. The court observed that petitioner should seek this information from the ministry and approach the court in case of its denial.
Advocate Awais Sheikh had filed the petition at the request of Madan Lal's brother Suraj Bhan whom he had met in Amritsar last year. According to Suraj Bhan Indian authorities had informed him that Lal was last seen in June 1984 in Bahawalnagar district jail. The petition had sought the court's directives to make the government trace the whereabouts of Madan Lal and order his repatriation.
Efforts to find Madan Lal have so far drawn a blank. The Punjab home secretary had allowed Awais Sheikh to visit Lahore Central Jail to try and meet Madan Lal. However, the jail superintendent informed him that no such person was in the prison.
Justice Katju appeals to the President of Pakistan
In an email of May 24 sent to various friends in Pakistan,
Markandey Katju, retired Justice of the Supreme Court of
India, Chairman, Press Council of India, wrote:
We in India are very happy over Dr. Chishty's release and return home. Now I wish to request you all to do something in Sarabjit Singh's case. He is an Indian in a Pakistan jail for 22 years, 21 of which have been on death row. He was convicted for involvement in the Lahore bomb blast of 1990 in which 14 people were killed. I was going through some details of his case and found that the main prosecution witness, Shaukat Salim, later in a taped statement retracted his statement in Court and said that it was given under police pressure. The other evidence against him is said to be his alleged confession, but we all know how confessions are obtained in both our countries (by third degree methods).
My own opinion is that he had gone to Pakistan to do some illegal business (he claimed he had gone to do illegal liquor trade), but he was certainly not involved in the Lahore bomb blast of 1990. Unfortunately the atmosphere in both our countries is so vitiated that often we regard people of each other's countries as devils, and both Dr. Chishty and Sarabjit were victims of this mindset.
I sent three appeals to President Zardari for granting him pardon, the first through the Pakistan High Commissioner to India Mr. Shahid Malik, the second through Mr. Ansar Burney who met me at my residence in Delhi some time back, and the third through Dr. Chishty who was returning to Pakistan. There has been no response from President Zardari to any of these letters. Sarabjit has been on death row (not merely in jail) for 21 years, with a Damocles Sword hanging over his head all the time. This surely is enough to drive anyone mad. Is this not punishment enough (even assuming he was guilty, about which I have grave reservations)?
In my opinion the prestige of Pakistan will go up if he is released and sent back to India. That will also help in improving the vitiated atmosphere in our countries Sarabjit's family members, including his sister Dalbir Kaur and his grown up children have met me in Delhi and I promised them that I will do my best to secure his release and return to India as I think injustice was done to him (just as I think injustice was done to Dr. Chishty). So please help in any way you can.
Regards, Justice Katju
Response from Senator Syed Faseih Iqbal, editor in chief of Daily Baluchistan Times,
member Press Council of Pakistan and Convenor Pakistan Association of Former Parliamentarians:
May 27, 2012
My dear Justice Markandey Sahab
I hope this letter finds you in best of health and spirit.
Thank you for your e-mail of 24 May. I greatly value your concern for all cross border prisoners in both our countries. We in Pakistan acknowledge the positive role you and your colleagues played in paving way for the release of Dr. Khalil Chishty who is now back with his family thanks to a wave of positive confidence building measures including your sincere efforts in this regard.
Your first appeal to the President of Pakistan, sent through Pakistani High Commissioner in India, definitely broke some ice. For I personally am a staunch believer that the issue of cross border prisoners must not be used for political purpose rather only considered purely on humanitarian grounds, I had promptly published a special news comment in my newspaper The Balochistan Times Quetta, strongly supporting your appeal for Sarabhjit's release and had also written to President Zardari in this regard. Your persistence in this matter is laudable and I take the idea of continuously knocking the door. I have taken note of valid and logical points you have made in your instant e-mail and would like to inform you that I am again going to publish another special news comment in my newspaper in support of your appeal, write another letter to President Zardari and also mobilize public opinion in favour of Sarabhjit's release through prominent human rights activists in my country. I am pleased to observe that all peace loving people in Pakistan have appreciated your appeal and expressed their support for it. We share a common opinion that pardon to Sarabhjit Singh, if granted, may prove to be a turning point culminating in a full-fledged peace process between our two countries. I have very high hopes that our joint efforts would ultimately lead to Sarabhjit's release.
With best wishes and highest regards,
Senator (R) Syed Faseih Iqbal (H.I, S.I)
Thursday, May 31, 2012
An online video about Sikhs looking after a mosque built by his ancestors inspires
the writer to re-connect with his past across the border
By Syed Saadat Hu
I had the opportunity to lead an 80-member high-level business delegation of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to Pakistan in May 2012 f .....more
RIP Asghar Ali Engineer
A legacy of peace, rational thinking,
Asoft spoken, gentle and unassuming person, always clad in a .....more
Time to douse the fire
"Pakistan-India relations have been strained for decades due to a number of well known issues - Kashmir, water, sporadic skirmis .....more
An innovative idea connects Indians and Pakistanis with 'the other side'
"It saddens me that we have neighbours that we can't even go visit." "The .....more
Congratulating Nawaz Sharif on the electoral win of his political party, Aman ki Asha's plea to both governments continues to be: "Stay the course". Let the people re .....more
Page 1 of 175
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw