Surjeet Singh crossed the Wagah border between Pakistan and India today, and reunited with his family after 31 years spent in a Lahore prison. As dhols or the traditional Punjabi drums greeted him, far away in Delhi, a worried sister met Foreign Affairs Minister SM Krishna to ask when her brother would be sent back by Pakistan.
Sarabjit Singh's family heard through Pakistani media on Tuesday evening that he had been pardoned by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and would be allowed to go home after nearly 22 years on Death Row. Hours later, the President's office said the media had got it wrong. The Indian being sent home was Surjeet Singh, who had been arrested for espionage when Zia-ul-Haq was in power in Pakistan. Surjeet has served the life sentence he was awarded.
"Sarabjit is doing well. He should also be freed. The mix-up happened by Pakistani officials due to similar names," said 69-year-old Surjeet, as he entered his country today. Asked as to why he crossed over to Pakistan, he said,"Yes I went there
for spying". Surjeet said he would never like to set foot on Pakistan
The two men were at the same prison in Lahore, and Surjeet said he has met Sarabjit several times.
Sarabjit was convicted for his alleged role in blasts in Lahore and Multan in 1990. His family maintains he is innocent, and crossed into Pakistan by mistake.
He filed his fifth petition seeking clemency in May this year. A campaign for his release, led by activists like Pakistan's Ansar Burney, got new momentum after India allowed 80-year-old Dr Khalil Chishty to return to Pakistan on humanitarian grounds. Dr Chishty was accused of killing a man during a brawl in Ajmer in April 1992. He had not been home in 20 years.
Story first published:
June 28, 2012 08:44 IST