LAHORE: The superintendent of Central Jail Lahore submitted before the Lahore High Court on Thursday that he had asked the Inspectorate of Prisons and the Home Department about what to do with an Indian prisoner whose jail term ended a year ago, but they had not responded.
In a written reply to a petition concerning Surjit Singh’s continued incarceration, the superintendent said that his jail term expired on October 30, 2010, following which he wrote four letters to the Inspectorate of Prisons and the Home Department between November and March 2012, seeking instructions on what to do with the prisoner.
The jail superintendent said that Singh had been in Central Jail since October 31, 1985, when he was sentenced to death under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act. His mercy petition was rejected by General Headquarters but forwarded to the president on December 24, 1985. The then president (Gen Ziaul Haq) did not make a decision on the petition, but on December 8, 1988, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan announced a general amnesty for all condemned prisoners. Consequently, Singh’s death sentence was converted to a term of life in prison, to end on October 30, 2010.
The superintendent said though Singh had been treated as a lifer, he had sought advice from the quarters concerned on his final status. After going through the reply, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik issued notice to the foreign affairs secretary for December 20.
The judge is considering a petition from Advocate Awais Sheikh for Singh’s inclusion on a list of foreign prisoners held in Pakistani jails past the end of their prison terms. The list of 74 names, including 32 Indians, was presented to the court last month, after which the judge directed the Foreign Office to facilitate their release.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2011.