Emotional homecoming for Surjeet Singh after 31 years in Pak jail

Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh, who has served a life term following his arrest on charges of spying in the 1980s, was freed from Lahore`s Kot Lakhpat Jail on Thursday.

Updated: Jun 29, 2012, 00:33 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Lahore: Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh, who has served a life term following his arrest on charges of spying in the 1980s, walked into the Indian side of the Wagah International Border after being released from Pakistan’s Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore on Thursday.

Escorted by Pakistani Policemen, Surjeet Singh reached the Wagah International Border crossing around 10.30 am where he was handed over to the Indian authorities.

He was welcomed by his immediate family members from Ferozepur and around 300 villagers at the Wagah Border.

After his arrival at the Wagah Border, he told anxious reporters that he was extremely delighted to return home to reunite with his family members after 30 years.

“By God’s grace I am meeting my family again after 30 years. I am extremely happy,” said an emotionally choked Surjeet Singh.

He also informed that all Indian prisoners lodged in the Kot Lakpat jail were treated well by the Pakistani authorities and he had no complaints.

When quizzed about Sarabjit Singh, he said, “Sarabjit is in good health and I met him on several occasions.”

He also expressed hope that Sarabjit Singh would be freed soon. However, he admitted that the Pakistani media is anti-Sarabjit.

He also stated that the mix-up by the Pakistan authorities happened due to similar names. “Both Sarabjjit and Surjeet are written in a similar manner in Urdu," he said, adding that he will do everything possible for the release of Sarabjit Singh.

When asked what he would do after his return, he said, “We will go straight to Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) and pay our respects.”

“After that, we will go home and celebrate,” he added.

Asked as to why he crossed over to Pakistan, he said, "Yes I went there for spying". Surjeet said he would never like to set foot on Pakistan again.

"I was arrested around 30 years ago... I can`t say about
others but I can say at my level I was taken care of well..... But I do not want to go back as they may accuse me of spying again, a charge on which I was locked up," said Surjeet.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has welcomed his release from Pakistan jail after 30-long years and expressed hope that Islamabad will continue to take efforts to boost bilateral ties.
Singh has been in Pakistani captivity for over 30 years. Awais Sheikh, the counsel for Singh, told the media that the Indian national was arrested by Pakistani police on charges of spying during the regime of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.

Singh was given the death sentence under the Pakistan Army Act in 1985. The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1989 by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

Singh had held meetings with other prisoners in Kot Lakhpat Jail today to bid them farewell.
He also requested the authorities to serve him `sewai` to celebrate his impending release, reports said.

Singh is expected to be repatriated along with 315 Indian fishermen who were freed from a jail in the southern port city of Karachi yesterday. The fishermen were released as a goodwill gesture.

Surjeet’s release comes after high-voltage midnight drama when Pakistan first announced that it was to free death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, but hours later the presidential spokesman clarified that authorities had actually ordered the release of Surjeet and not Sarabjit.

With PTI Input