Kashmir Singh freed in Pakistan
Indian national Kashmir Singh was released on Monday after spending 35 years on death row in Pakistani jails and will be reunited with his family at the Wagah border on Tuesday.
Singh, pardoned last week by President Pervez Musharraf after his case was taken up by caretaker Human Rights Minister Ansar Burney, emerged from the Kot Lakhpat Central Jail a little after 8.20 pm (local time).
Escorted by Burney and his family, a relieved-looking Singh got into a waiting vehicle and was driven to a five-star hotel where he would spend the night. Some people showered rose petals on the car as it sped away from the jail.
Singh's release from jail was beamed live on all Pakistani news channels but he did not speak to the waiting media. "My wife and I will accompany Singh to Wagah where he will be reunited with his family at 11 am tomorrow," Burney told PTI.
Suresh Reddy, the visa counsellor from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, went to Lahore to hand over Singh's travel documents at the jail.
"Singh is in sound health. He has been following the news about his case on radio and TV and is excited at the prospect of seeing his family," Reddy said.
Though there was a slight delay in completing certain formalities for the prisoner's release, Burney asked officials at the jail to remain in their offices beyond normal working hours so that Singh could be freed on Monday itself.
Following the approval of Singh's mercy petition by Musharraf last week, the order for his release was issued by the Interior Ministry on Saturday.
Singh's wife Paramjit Kaur, who has been struggling for his release since his arrest in 1973 and his subsequent conviction on espionage charges, will greet him on the Indian side of the border with family members and friends.
The Ansar Burney Trust, one of Pakistan's most prominent rights organisations, has announced a grant of one million rupees for Singh.
The Trust is now working for the release of other Indian nationals in Pakistani prisons, particularly fishermen. Burney's son Fahad Burney, the acting chairman of the Trust, said the organisation was also searching for Indian prisoners of war in Pakistani jails and working for the release of Pakistani nationals from Indian jails.
Singh was arrested in Rawalpindi in 1973. He was sentenced to death by a military court after being convicted on espionage charges.
Singh was traced by Ansar Burney during a visit by to Lahore's Central Jail as part of his work for prisoners' rights and jail reforms.
A mercy petition sent by the minister was accepted on humanitarian grounds by Musharraf, who pardoned Singh and allowed him to return to India.