Indian national Surjeet Singh,who has been languishing in Kot Lakhpat Jail in this eastern Pakistani city for over 30 years,is expected to be freed within three months,his lawyer has said.
The Punjab government yesterday told the Lahore High Court that Surjeet had completed his term and would be released.
Through a written report submitted in the court of Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik,the government said Surjeet was given the status of an internee last month.
The judge was hearing a petition seeking the release of Surjeet filed by his Pakistani lawyer Awais Sheikh,who is also counsel for Sarabjit Singh,an Indian on death row after his conviction for alleged involvement in bomb blasts in 1990.
Sheikh pleaded that Surjeet had been held in the Pakistani jail even after completing his term of life imprisonment.
Relying on the Punjab government’s reply,the judge adjourned the hearing till July 9.
The lawyer said that he had filed the petition for Surjeet’s release at the request of his family. “I met the son and daughter of Surjeet in Amritsar and they told me that their father was languishing in Kot Lakhpat Jail,” he said.
Sheikh said Surjeet was captured near the border on charges of spying during the era of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.
He was given the death sentence but then President Ishaq Khan commuted it to life imprisonment.
“Surjeet completed his term in 2004. The High Court has said there is no law that allows a prisoner to be detained after he completes his sentence,” Sheikh said.
In a separate development,Justice Umar Ata Bandial of the Lahore High Court has disposed of another petition filed by Sheikh seeking the release of another Indian prisoner named Madan Lal.
Punjab’s Inspector General of Prisons informed the court that no prisoner by this name had been detained in any jail of the province.
Sheikh asked the court to seek a reply from the Interior Ministry about Lal’s whereabouts but the judge turned down this request and disposed of the petition.
The judge directed Sheikh to approach the Foreign Office to redress his grievance.
Sheikh had pleaded that Lal mistakenly entered Pakistan in 1967 and was arrested by authorities.
He said Indian authorities had informed Lal’s family that he was last seen in Bahawalnagar district jail in June 1984 and his whereabouts after that were not known.
In his petition,Sheikh had asked the court to direct the government to trace Lal and order his repatriation.