New Delhi, April 3: As India prepares to host Asif Ali Zardari next week, one woman is counting the days to the Pakistan President’s visit.
Not that Parminder Kaur has any special interest in sub-continental politics. The 42-year-old Punjab villager has only one prayer on her lips: her father Surjit Singh’s safe return home after over 30 years in jail in Pakistan.
Lahore High Court has ordered Singh’s release and Parminder hopes the Indian government takes up her father’s case with the Pakistani leader.
“I know that Zardari is coming to India,” says the resident of Muktsar district. “I hope the Indian government takes up my father’s case with him. What can an 80-year-old man do? He has spent most of his life in jail. Even his jail term is over, why can’t they release him?”
In a fortnight from now, Parminder should know if her father would finally come home. In February this year, Lahore High Court ordered Pakistan’s interior ministry to submit a status report on Singh’s case on April 19. The court also rapped the government for not releasing the old man even after he had completed his jail term.
Singh used to work on a farm near the border before he was captured by Pakistani forces during the 1971 war. He was sentenced to death in 1982 for being a spy. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment in 1989.
Locked up in jail, Singh spent his time learning Urdu and making wedding gifts for his daughter, unaware that she had got married.
Kaur, whose mother and brother are both dead, says she first came to know about her father’s whereabouts in 1982, when a news report mentioned his death penalty. “We didn’t know what to do. We are so poor, if I had some money, I would have gone and met him. It’s a pity that neither the Indian high commission in Pakistan nor the Indian government is keen on helping us.”
Singh’s lawyer Awais Sheikh, who met him today, said the case had been delayed again and again. “We are still waiting for a letter from the interior minister saying the road is clear for his release to the Indian high commission, which can then start the process of getting Singh out of Pakistan. The court is yet to give a date for his release, but will do so hopefully on April 19 at the next hearing,” the lawyer said.
A tense Kaur kept her fingers crossed, hoping India-Pakistan relations don’t see any further setbacks.
She doesn’t want anything to jeopardise her father’s return.