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Sarabjit was forced to embrace Islam
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 24
Urns of at least 30 Prisoners of War (POWs), preserved in Kot Lakhpat Rai Jail, Lahore, where Sarbjit Singh alias Manjit Singh is also lodged, are awaiting last rites.

Mr Sheetal Das Kaler, secretary, South Asian Human Rights Group, Canada chapter, who was the first person of Indian origin to meet Sarbjit Singh in August, 2003, told The Tribune today that he had first-hand information about the ‘urns’ and presence of POWs, especially of Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, in Pakistan’s jail. Talking to The Tribune from Canada on telephone, Mr Kaler said that he heard the voices of POWs requesting him to meet them too, but he was unable to have access to them as he had got permission from the Home Ministry of Pakistan to meet only Sarbjit Singh. He said Sarbjit Singh, told Mr Kaler in the presence of Mr K. Abbas special branch officer in Pakistan, and a posse of other Pakistani policemen that he had been arrested when he was drunk from the Kasoron border outpost by the Pakistan Rangers. “Nothing was found on me. I was arrested, blindfolded and made to sign on blank papers by some Pakistani intelligence officers,” he said.

Giving startling information about the precarious health condition of Sarbjit Singh, Mr Kaler said that he was suffering from tuberculosis and hence he had deposited Rs 2,000 with the Jail Superintendent for providing medicines. He said health condition of Sarbjit Singh worsened as he was lodged in a solitary cell for more than six years. The attitude of jail authorities compelled him to embrace Islam so that he could come out of his cell to offer Namaz five times. He said Sarbjit Singh was meted out third degree torture during his confinement in Pak jails. Family members of Sarbjit Singh had received first information when he succeeded in sending a letter with the help of a Muslim jail inmate after many years.

Recalling his one and half hour meeting with Sarbjit Singh , Mr Kaler said that he was forced to confess his involvement in series of bomb blasts in different parts of Pakistan in 1990 . He said Sarbjit Singh had denied his involvement in any bomb blasts, engineered by one Manjit Singh in the presence of Mr Rana, a Lahore-based lawyer and representatives of Special Security branch . He said Sarbjit Singh who was apprehending thrashing by the Pakistan authorities for giving truthful statement to him (Mr Kaler) said that he had strayed into Pakistan’s territory in an inebriated condition .

Dismissing the claims of Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri that matter had been in court for 15 years but this issue was not raised by his lawyer, Mr Kaler said that his Canada-based association had challenged the death sentence of Sarbjit on the basis of mistaken identity. Mr Kaler said that he had paid an advance of Rs one lakh to Mr Rana while equal amount was still pending. Mr Kaler said that he himself had taken documentary proof to establish the identity of Sarbjit Singh that included voter list of Bhikhiwind , record of Bhikhiwind police Station (to show that he was never involved in any criminal activity in the past) and videofilm of the sarpanch and other prominent persons of the village to prove his (Sarbjit’s innocence) .

Mr Kaler said that his association would soon visit Pakistan to meet his lawyer and hoped that that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would grant pardon to him and repatriate him to India.

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