LAHORE: Speaking to Indian media just minutes after he crossed the Wagah Border into India, Sarjeet Singh confessed to his offense, saying that he went to Pakistan for spying, Express News reported on Thursday.
After the Ministry of Law and Justice approved his release on Tuesday, life sentence prisoner Sarjeet Singh crossed the Wagah Border, and after 27 years, stepped on his native soil just a few minutes prior to this confession of being guilty.
Family and friends rushed to greet Singh as he reached India.
Speaking to the media on the Pakistani side of the Wagah Border, Singh, now over 60 years old, said that both sides should release prisoners.
“India should release Pakistani prisoners and Pakistan should release Indian prisoners, that is all I want to say,” he said in Punjabi.
Upon being asked as to whether he would ever come back to Pakistan, he said, “I don’t want to come back to Pakistan.”
When asked whether he did not want to come back because he did not like the country, Singh dispelled the notion saying he actually did like the country but said that was not the reason.
“I was accused of being a spy,” he said. “If I come back, agencies will have doubts that I am here to spy again, that is why I will not come back.”
He said that he was grateful for the way Pakistanis treated him.
Waiting on the other side of the border, in anticipation of his father's return, Singh’s son said that he wished Sarabjeet was being released too.
“Both of them coming back together would be even better,” he said. "Sarabjeet's family would also be as happy as we are."
When asked what the first thing the family would do after his father’s return, he said, “We will go straight to Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) and pay our respects.”
“After that, we will go home and celebrate,” he added.
Sarjeet/ Sarabjeet mix-up was an honest mistake
Speaking to media on the Indian side of the Wagah Border, an enthusiastic Singh said that he would get Sarabjeet released too. “I will get it done soon. We will meet ministers to get him released,” he said.
When asked about Sarabjeet’s state, Singh said that he was “in good health” and that he was “sane”.
“I used to meet him every other week, he roams freely in the prison,” added Singh.
Dispelling rumors of maltreatment, Singh said, “No Indian prisoner is dying in Pakistan, nobody is dying of hunger or sickness.”
He said that those who the doctors are unable to cure are sent to a hospital in the city. “There is a Jinnah Hospital there like we have the Chandigarh Hospital here,” said Singh. “They send the sick prisoners there who are brought back after treatment.”
Speaking on the case of mistaken identities, Singh defended Pakistan saying that it was an honest mistake. “There is little difference in the way Sarabjeet and Surjeet are written in Urdu,” he said.
He referred to Advisor to the Prime Minister of Interior affairs Rehman Malik’s interview and said it was him who cleared out the matter. “Their former home minister gave an interview to newspaper reporters and said that Sarabjeet’s documents and mine had been separated,” Singh said.
“ He(Malik) was the one who said that the one who is to be released is Sarjeet Singh, not Sarabjeet,” Singh said, and quoted Malik, saying, “He said ‘Sarjeet’s papers are here, he is being released and we will do so within 48 hours’”.
When quizzed further by the media, an irritated Singh said, “I don’t know about this (the Sarabjeet mix-up), I read newspapers. I am not a minister or an officer.”
“Did you listen to Rehman Malik’s interview? Then you don’t need to ask this question,” he added.
Following these questions, Singh confessed to his crime saying, "I went there to spy."
Singh was arrested by Pakistani police on charges of spying during former President Ziaul Haq’s regime and was awarded the death sentence by a court in 1985.
Later in 1989, his punishment was commuted to life imprisonment by former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan as part of a general order to commute all death sentences awarded during the military regime.
On Tuesday night, President Asif Ali Zardari ordered for Singh’s release as a goodwill gesture. The convict has already completed his stipulated punishment.