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Surjeet Singh says Sarabjit is fine, blames media for mix-up

Sarabjit's family shocked, big moment for Surjeet's near ones
Janata Party chief wants India to break ties with Pak over Sarabjit
Sarabjit's family to protest at Jantar Mantar today

12:00 pm:  I am very hopeful that Sarabjit will also be released soon and I wish I was there at the Wagah border to receive Surjeet Singh, Sarabjit Singh‘s sister Dalbir Kaur says.

She also thanks Surjeet Singh for bringing across news of Sarabjit Singh‘s wellbeing in the Pakistani jail.

Sarabjit’s family will continue to press for his release and plans to meet Sonia Gandhi and other senior officials, Kaur said.

11:50 am: “I will work for the release of Sarabjit,” Surjeet said.

“We (Sarabjit and I) used to talk about all issues,” he said.

Surjeet admits that he had gone across the border for spying as the press conference is ended by Indian authorities present there.

“I had gone there for spying,” Singh told the media before the press conference came to an abrupt end.

11:44 am: “What can be a matter of greater happiness to come home after 30 years,” he said.

“No matter how difficult it is, it is not as hard as being in jail. Pakistani jail are not a place for hardship for Indian prisoners,” Singh said.

“There has been no shortage of food, clothes, etc while I was in Pakistani jail,” Singh said

“Sarabjit is perfectly fine. He has no problem at all. He is on death row…I used to keep meeting him. He is not facing any problems. I used to meet him like other prisoners. He knows that he could be released,” Singh says.

“The mistake that has taken place. Why did the effort to free him go to waste? Because of the media. The media there pounced on news of his release,” he says

11:40 am: Singh waves to cameras as he crosses over the border. Journalists jostle for a soundbite but have no luck.

11: 30 am: Surjeet Singh crosses into India. After over 30 years in a Pakistani jail, Singh has crossed over into India and is greeted by numerous people. His papers are still being processed by the BSF, the same paramilitary force, in which he served.

It could take some more time for his documents to be processed and Singh being able to cross into India.

11:25 am: Sarabjit Singh’s family members have gone to meet Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna to seek his release from a Pakistani jail.

10: 50 am: Surjeet Singh has reportedly reached the Wagah border and formalities are being completed to bring him across the border.

10:40 am: Surjeet Singh’s family members and people from his village are awaiting his arrival at the Wagah body and  distribute sweets as they await his arrival.

His wife says all his family members are present at the border. She says the entire period where they had not known the whereabouts of her husband had been a very difficult time for her family.

10:30 am: The former BSF official has left the Lahore central jail and reportedly all the diplomatic formalities at the Pakistani side of the Wagah border have been completed. Meanwhile, Sarabjit Singh’s family who had a brief glimmer of hope before being told that he wasn’t being released, is protesting at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh, who has served a life term following his arrest on charges of spying in the 1980s, has been released from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.

Singh, 69, will be handed over to Indian authorities later today, a senior official of the prison department of Punjab province told PTI.

“During my imprisonment I often remembered my family and children. Today I am very happy. I will go to the Golden
Temple to pray and hug my children,” he told reporters after being released.

“I will only say this, India should release whatever Pakistani prisoners it has in its custody and Pakistan should do the same,” Singh said, adding that he had been treated well throughout his jail term.

He refused to comment on whether another prisoner on death row Sarabjit Singh should also be released, saying that he did not know about the case.

Policemen will escort Singh to the Wagah land border crossing, where he will be handed over to Indian authorities, the official, who did not wish to be named, said.

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.

Sources said 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, the sources said.

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

Hours after reports emerged on Tuesday that Pakistan was to free Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, the presidential spokesman clarified that authorities had actually ordered the release of Surjeet and not Sarabjit.

Shocked by the U-turn by Pakistan on the release of Sarabjit Singh, his family have decided to hold a protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar today to seek his release.

With inputs from PTI
by FP Staff
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