Indian may walk free from Pakistan prison Monday

February 29th, 2008 - 7:31 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 29 (IANS) Kashmir Singh, an Indian prisoner who has been on death row in Pakistan for about 35 years for alleged espionage, is expected to be released from jail Monday and handed over to his relatives at the Wagah border. “We have made all arrangements for his release and he will be handed over to us by the prison authorities Monday,” Ansar Burney, the caretaker minister for human rights who also heads the Ansar Burney Welfare Trust, told IANS.

President Pervez Musharraf Thursday granted mercy to Singh who was arrested in Rawalpindi in 1973 on charges of espionage. It is not clear why or how Singh reached Lahore but he was given capital punishment under Pakistani laws for spying.

Burney said that soon after the mercy appeal was signed, he pressed upon the Prime Minister’s Secretariat to issue orders for Singh’s immediate release.

“I am happy that the prime minister has ordered his release and now the case is with the interior minister who would issue the notification of his release tomorrow (Saturday),” said the minister.

Sunday being a holiday, Singh could be released Monday. “I wish to take him to (Wagah) border the same day but it may not be possible without the travel documents,” he said.

An official of the Indian high commission said: “We are examining the case.”

Burney said Singh was in good health and was about 71 years old. According to jail records, when he was arrested, he gave his age as 37.

Singh had filed a mercy petition in the mid-80s with the presidency that was never taken up.

“I am in touch with the authorities at the Indian high commission for issuance of his travel documents,” said Burney who had a chance meeting with Singh last month during his visit to Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore.

“I immediately traced his mercy appeal and convinced the president to grant him mercy which he did on Thursday,” said Burney who is overjoyed over Singh’s release.

“Believe me, it’s a miracle…I am glad that he would be among his family after a long time,” said the minister who is known for his activism on concessions for prisoners.

Singh had a love marriage with Paranjeet Kaur who still waits for her husband in Nangal Choran village of Punjab. He has a daughter and two sons. His three brothers live in India.

“He hasn’t received any information for long from his relatives,” a jail official said.

The official said that Singh was very happy about his impending release and was counting every minute to meet his relatives. According to the official, he has spent over 34 years in jail but cannot wait any more.

“It’s difficult for me to spend a minute…I want to meet my wife, my children and my brothers, I wish my sister were alive,” the official quoted Singh as saying.

Burney said: “He will be taken to the border and handed over to his relatives the day his documents are completed by the Indian high commission.”

He said that he is also in touch with the Indian MP from Hoshiarpur, Avinash Rai Khanna, who helped in contacting Singh’s family. “Mr Khanna is of real help and I believe he’ll also help in getting his travel documents issued next week,” said the minister.

Burney said after his release, Singh would be a guest of the Ansar Burney Trust, which would pay for his entire medical, travel and other expenses.

Burney, who reluctantly accepted the offer to be minister in the caretaker set-up after the previous government completed its tenure in November last year, said, “I think I accepted the offer (to become minister) to meet Kashmir Singh and get him released.”

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