The wait ends: Surjeet Singh's family rejoices



Ferozepur (Punjab): While the family of Sarabjit Singh, the Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan, was left shocked by Islambad's flip-flop over his release, there was jubilation in the home of his fellow inmate Surjeet Singh, who will be freed after over three decades in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail.

At Phidde village in Punjab's frontier district of Ferozepur, 280 km from Chandigarh, Surjeet's family celebrated the news that he would be released soon.

The news reached the family past midnight when they got calls from the media. The Pakistan government had announced around 1.00 am Wednesday that Surjeet, and not Sarabjit as had been reported earlier, would be released from jail following orders from Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

"We are all eagerly awaiting my father's release from Lahore jail. He completed his term years ago. Finally, he is being released. We will welcome him at Attari border with great fanfare," Surjeet's son Kulwinder told media in his village on Wednesday.

"Though we are very happy that my father is being released, we appeal to the Pakistan government to release Sarabjit Singh also," Kulwinder said.

He said his father had inadvertently crossed over into Pakistan in 1982 and was arrested there. He was charged with spying and sent to prison.

Residents of Phidde and nearby villages started pouring into Surjeet's house to congratulate the family.

Surjeet and Sarabjit are both in Kot Lakhpat jail.

"I think there is some confusion. First, it is not a case of pardon. More importantly, it is not Sarabjit. It is Surjeet Singh, son of Sucha Singh. His death sentence was commuted in 1989 by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on the advice of then prime minister Benazir Bhutto," Zardari's spokesperson Farhatullah Babar was quoted as saying by Geo News.

Keeping him in jail any longer will be illegal confinement, he said.

India had last month allowed a Pakistani virologist, Khalil Chisty, 80, who was lodged in Ajmer jail on murder charges for over two decades, to go back to his country.

IANS