Bhikhiwind was no more a sleepy town the moment the impending release of Sarabjit Singh spread like wild fire and its residents went into a celebratory mode. Sukhpreet Kaur and Poonam, wife and daughter of Sarabjit, respectively, were overjoyed that the good news had finally arrived.
"I was 23-days-old when my father left. Now, I am 21 years old. This is the news which we all have been waiting all our lives. I cannot wait anymore. My trust was in God and today the Almighty has just given us the best moments in our lives," Poonam told Hindustan Times.
"It will be like meeting my father for the first time and my life will change," she remarked.
Sharing sweets with mother Sukhpreet, Poonam said, "Our family has suffered a lot and we just want our father back."
"Today, I had visited a gurdwara and prayed for the release of my husband. Today, the God has listened. These 21 years have been hell for us, but this one moment has taken away all the pains," a visibly elated Sukhpreet said.
"I am getting ready to welcome my husband. We will decorate a car, take it to the border to receive Sarabjit. The village and the border will witness fireworks when he crosses into India," she said.
"I hope my husband is back very soon. I thank the whole of India and Pakistan. This is the best they could give to us," added Sukhpreet.
Sarabjit Singh left this border town about 22 years ago and nobody knows how he crossed into Pakistan. Ever since, he was lodged in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail. He was convicted and sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in bombings that killed 14 people in Pakistan.
Although Sarabjit, his family and lawyer have been stressing that his was a case of 'mistaken identity'.
"It is relieving news for me from Pakistan which did a lot for Indians and every Indian would always remember this act of kindness of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari," said Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur with moist eyes.
Kaur was struggling hard for the last two decades to get her brother freed from the Pakistan prison.
Kaur said she expected the release of her brother in a couple of days and him to cross over to India through the land transit route of Attari/Wagha border.
Sarabjit's two daughters Swapandeep Kaur and Poonam couldn't control their emotions and broke down. His wife Sukhpreet said, "...for me it is a kind of new birth since my two daughters would get their father back from the Pakistan prison."
Sarabjit's lawyer Awais Sheikh dubbed the commuting of Sarabjit's sentence a "huge gesture" on part of the Pakistan President. “President Zardari has commuted the death sentence and I am hopeful that Sarabjit will be set free in the coming 3-4 days,” he said.
"In such cases, there are not many hurdles and I am very confident that there is not much wait now," he added.
Sheikh said that it had been a long battle for all those involved in seeking the release of Sarabjit. This was the fifth mercy petition and finally we succeeded, said the lawyer.
"I will accompany him to India and bring him back (to India) soon," said an elated Sheikh.