Kashmir Singh walks out of Pakistani jail a free man

March 3rd, 2008 - 10:43 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
(Second Lead)
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, March 3 (IANS) Kashmir Singh, an Indian who has languished in a Pakistani prison for 35 years on espionage charges, was released Monday evening from Lahore’s Central Jail. He will walk to India across the Wagah border at 11 a.m. Tuesday. An emotional Singh came out of the jail at 7.50 p.m. and was greeted by a large number of media persons and citizens of Lahore. Wearing a new shalwar kameez and a white cap, Singh was accompanied by Caretaker Minister for Human Rights Ansar Burney and an official of the Indian High Commission.

“Kashmir Singh’s travel documents are ready and he would be leaving for India tomorrow (Tuesday) morning,” caretaker Minister for Human Rights Ansar Burney said.

Burney said he would accompany Kashmir Singh, who is known to jail inmates as Ibrahim, to the Wagah border Tuesday. The Indian has spent 35 years of his life in various Pakistani jails, including at Mianwali, Sahiwal, Multan and Bahawalpur.

Kashmir Singh reached Lahore jail only four months ago and was luckily spotted by the minister, who got his mercy appeal signed by President Pervez Musharraf.

After six months of detention, he had adopted Islam and has learnt many Quranic verses, said a jail official.

He has been a practising Muslim for many years and says his prayers five times a day, the official added.

His very appearance has changed. When he was arrested, he had a black beard and a Sikh turban. Now, he sports a trimmed beard and a traditional Muslim cap.

According to the official, Kashmir Singh said: “I am confident that my family - wife, children and brothers and a sister - will accept me, I love them all, you can’t imagine how happy I am.”

“One day I was reading about Prophet Ibrahim in the Quran and was impressed by his teachings and asked my fellows in jail to call me by this name.”

According to Syed Fahad Burney of the Ansar Burney Trust, who will be given Kashmir Singh’s custody, many friends and wellwishers have started gathering at Wagah to welcome the man who was arrested in Rawalpindi in 1973.

Kashmir Singh was accused of being a spy and thereafter sentenced to death. He remained on death row in deplorable conditions until Ansar Burney, also a human rights activist, helped him locate his family and secured his release.

Kashmir Singh’s release is being seen as a significant step in improving India-Pakistan relations and building trust between the two neighbours.

According to Syed Fahad Burney, there is a lot of support for Kashmir Singh in Pakistan. The trust has received many appreciative letters from Pakistani and Indian nationals across the world.

The Ansar Burney Trust, one of Pakistan’s most prominent rights groups, said it was working for the release of other Indians in Pakistani prisons, particularly Indian fisherman. It was also searching for Indian prisoners of war in Pakistani prisons.

Burney has also asked the president to create a national commission for human rights - an organisation that would search for missing prisoners, work for prisoners’ rights and prison reforms.

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