Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit Singh was issued a visa for one month by Pakistan on the recommendations of Kashmiri leader Mir Umar Farooq to the the Interior Minister of Pakistan Mr. Rehman Malik. She spent one month in Lahore, from June 6 to July 5, 2011. Before her arrival in Lahore, I submitted a letter to the Home Department and Superintendent of the jail for granting permission to meet her brother in Central Jail Lahore where he has been languishing for the last 21 years. I was kept waiting by the Home Department, Punjab and Superintendent of the jail. On every visit to them, I was told that they had not received clearance or permission advice from the Interior Ministry, Islamabad. Meanwhile, Dalbir Kaur arrived at Wagah Border on 6 June. On 8 June, we both addressed a press conference.
Till 12 June, no orders from the Home Department were issued for meeting Sarabjit.
The Indian High Commission was constantly in touch with me inquiring about the permission letter from the Home Department. The Deputy High Commissioner told me on phone that they had established contact with the Foreign Office which repeatedly said that instructions have already been passed on to the Home Secretary, Punjab for issuance of the permission letter. Being disappointed with the Home Department, I filed writ petition in the High Court on 14 June seeking permission for the meeting.
On 15 June Dalbir Kaur and myself appeared before the Chief Justice, Lahore High Court, Mr. Justice Ijaz Chaudhry. The Honourable Chief Justice issued immediate directions to the Superintendent of the jail to allow two meetings to Dalbir Kaur. I was also permitted to accompany her for the meetings.
It boosted the moral of a depressed Dalbir Kaur. She was very happy and much obliged to the Chief Justice for his quick action in accordance with Law and Justice.
We went to Data Darbar and Mian Mir Shrines and prayed for the release of Sarabjit. Before going back home, Dalbir had another meeting with Sarabjit on 1 July. It was different meeting as compared to the previous one. Both met with smiling faces. Sarabjit looked confident and determined that he will be released. Sarabjit said “I appeal to both Governments that relatives of prisoners should be allowed to meet them in jail across the border”. He added that most of the prisoners lose their senses after they are denied meetings with their relatives.
Meanwhile, one national daily “The Nation” reported a false statement in the name of Dalbir Kaur. It reads “Pakistan Indiaurged to release Ajmal Kasab and Sarabjit.”
It gave negative impression in India about Dalbir. She had to face a lot of questions regarding her credibility. The Indian media said “She said so to get her brother released ignoring the position of the Government of India with reference to the case of Ajmal Kasab”. Dalbir was very upset.
I took immediate steps and issued a legal notice to the Chief Editor of the Daily “The Nation”, Mr. Majeed Nizami claiming Rs. 2 crores for defamation for loss of reputation and mental torture. This was reported in the Indian media. My prompt action saved her from embarrassment and she heaved a sigh of relief. On 16 June we met Sarabjit in jail. It was an emotional moment for both brother and sister. They embraced each other, perhaps remembering the dark days that had passed with Sarabjit away from family, from home, from country, from everything. They stood speechless for a few moments, then they talked to each other for one and a half hours and exchanged views and exchanged gifts.
Dalbir talked to the media which gathered outside the Jail “My brother was not a terrorist, he is innocent. He is a victim of poor relations of both countries.” She appealed to the President to pardon or commute his death sentence to life. The Chief Editor of “The Nation” to whom I had issued a legal notice for reporting a false statement in the name of Dalbir, organised a seminar wherein religious leaders spoke to the gathering. They spoke against the expected release of Sarabjit and threatened the Government of the consequences thereof. They raised slogans against the Government, India and USA. Next day, a demonstration was staged outside the Punjab Assembly and the press club demanding that the punishment of Sarabjit be carried out. They also burnt the effigy of Counsel Awais Sheikh. It was reported in the Indian Press.
We went to Data Darbar and Mian Mir Shrines and prayed for the release of Sarabjit. Before going back home, Dalbir had another meeting with Sarabjit on 1 July. It was a different meeting as compared to the previous one. Both met with smiling faces. Sarabjit looked confident and determined that he will be released. Sarabjit said “I appeal to both Governments that relatives of prisoners should be allowed to meet them in jail across the border”. He added that most of prisoners lose their senses after they are denied meetings with their relatives. When we were leaving, Sarabjit requested Deputy Superintendent present in the meeting to allow his sister to meet Kirpal Singh, an Indian prisoner confined in the next barrack. The Deputy Superintendent allowed Dalbir Kaur and she went to the next barrack and met Kirpal Singh who has been confined there since the last 19 years. One day before her departure we addressed a press conference. One correspondent asked “You are a RAW agent….. You are well trained.” Dalbir Kaur showed her sharp reaction,“Don’t say anything without proof. I am neither a Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)
nor an Inter Services Intelligence(ISI) agent. I am a Government servant and striving for the release of my brother who is innocent.”
Yes, a sister was speaking from her heart. We as human beings are aware of the never ceasing love that comes from being with one’s family- a sister will standby a brother until his release and that is the way God wants to be. On the day of her departure, I received a telephone call from the Deputy Superintendent, “Dear Sheikh Saab, we are in trouble and an inquiry at the highest level has been initiated against us as to why we allowed Dalbir Kaur to meet Kirpal Singh without the permission of the Home Government.” I told Dalbir Kaur about this and admitted that, yes, mentioning your meeting with Kirpal Singh at the press conference was a mistake.
On 5 July, she went back to India. While speaking to the media at the border she said “I was expecting to take my brother with me but this has not happened, at least his release could have been announced. But I am not disappointed; I hope he will be released soon. I owe many thanks to the people, to the media and everyone for the hospitality and respect that I have received during my stay here. My special thanks to my brother and counsel of Sarabjit, Mr. Awais Sheikh for his extraordinary hard work in the case of Sarabjit, and I am also grateful to him for his hospitality and looking after me so well”.
(To be continued)