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Surjeet Singh released after 31 yrs in Pak jail

Last updated on: June 28, 2012 13:42 IST

After spending 31 years in Pakistani jail, Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh on Thursday walked free and crossed over to his home country to an emotional reunion with his family.

69-year-old Singh, who released from Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail on Thursday morning, crossed to the Indian side at Wagah border where he was welcomed with garlands and red shawls by his family and villagers, after completing official procedures on the Pakistan side of the border.

"After 30 years, I am meeting my children. I am very happy," he told reporters.

He said he did not have any hardship in the Pakistani jail and he got everything daily necessities like food and clothes.

Referring to Sarabjit Singh, who on the death row in the Lahore jail, he said the Indian convict was doing fine. He said he used to meet him only a weekly basis.

Asked if Sarabjit Singh had sent any message for his family, he said, "No".

Singh served a life term following his arrest on charges of spying in the 1980s in Pakistan. He 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.

Pakistani security personnel had escorted Singh to the Wagah land border crossing, where he was handed over to Indian authorities.

His release from prison came after reports emerged on Tuesday that Pakistan was to free Sarabjit Singh. But later, Pakistan clarified that authorities had actually ordered the release of Surjeet and not Sarabjit.

Wearing white kurta-pajama and black turban, Surjeet Singh was extended warm welcome by the Indian authorities.

On reaching Indian territory, he hugged his all family members including his wife Harbans Kaur, his son Kulwinder Singh, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, besides people from his native village Phidde.

"I was eager to meet my children and I am keen go to the Golden Temple first before leaving for my village in Ferozepur district...I am immensely happy on being released as I could meet my family members after over the three decades," he said.

On his tenure in the Pakistani jail, he said, "The plight of a prisoner would remain like a prisoner who remains in detention all the time...So what could be said on it."

Asked about the condition of other Indian prisoners in the jail, he said, "They are provided all basic things like food, clothes, soaps and even medicines. Some Indians, who are mentally not fit, are being treated in the hospital outside the jail."

On Sarabjit Singh, Surjeet said, "Since he has been sentenced to death, he has been lodged in separate solitary cell where he is not allowed to mix up with the other prisoners of the jail except once in a week.

"Once in a week he meets other prisoners for a while. Even I met him many times...He is hale and hearty but speaks very less," he said.

He claimed that all efforts for the release of Sarabjit Singh by India went in vain after it was highlighted in the media as certain groups in Pakistan opposed his release. "I wish Sarabjit Singh is released at the earliest so that he could meet his family in India."

About the drama after Pakistani TV channels flashed that Sarabjit Singh was being released and later stated that it not Sarabjit but Surjeet, he claimed, "All this happened due to spelling mistakes as in Urdu language the spelling of Surjeet and Sarabjeet are almost similar."

He said, "Now I will make efforts to get Sarabjeet released from Pakistan...I don't know how I will do it but, certainly, I will meet the authorities concerned in India for Sarabjeet."

When asked why he crossed over to Pakistan, he said, "Yes, I went there for spying."

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