Between the announcement that Sarabjit Singh’s death sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment and its subsequent retraction by the Pakistan government were six euphoric hours.
One announcement had bulldozed the dead weight of 22 years of waiting and grieving, giving way to six hours packed with dizzy hopes, impossible plans and fervent prayers by Sarabjit’s wife Sukhpreet, daughter Poonam and sister Dalbir Kaur.
So when the bad news came past midnight, it just did not sink in.On Wednesday morning, when HT visited the rented house in this village in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district where Sukhpreet and Poonam put up, the half-full sweet boxes were still lying around but the sweet hopefulness had dissipated.
“I can’t express what we are going through. Hearing the news that my husband will be back was like a re-birth, but suddenly Pakistan backtracked. It is a big jolt,” said an incredulous Sukhpreet.
And as Bhikhiwind erupted in anger — locals wore black badges and raised anti-Pakistan slogans — a bitterly disappointed but undaunted Poonam and Sukhpreet took the bus to Jalandhar, to join Dalbir and Sarabjit’s elder daughter Swapandeep Kaur.
Later in the day, while welcoming the news of Surjeet Singh’s release, Dalbir told mediapersons, “Sarabjit’s counsel Awais Sheikh told us that the Pakistan government changed its decision due to some pressure. We are disappointed, but we will continue the struggle.”
She also appealed to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to intervene and set her brother free.
“I felt hurt when I heard that Pakistan had taken a U-turn, but now I have regained my composure,” said Dalbir.