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Jun 28, 2012 at 02:10pm IST

Surjeet returns, says Pak media against Sarabjit

New Delhi: Surjeet Singh, who was released by Pakistan after 31 years on Thursday, revealed that Pakistan media was against another Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh's release.

"Sarabjit is in a good condition there. I used to keep meeting him. A major problem for Sarabjit has been the Pakistan media, which always goes against him. I will try my best to get Sarabjit freed. I will meet ministers, will do anything in my capacity to get him freed," he told reporters after arriving in India.Asked if Sarabjit Singh had sent any message for his family, he said, "No".

However, he said Pakistan had treated him well in the jail. He also appealed to Pakistan to release more Indian prisoners. "I met my children after three decades. Nothing can be a happier moment for me," he said.

Surjeet Singh crossed over to India at around 11.35 am after completing immigration formalities at the Wagah border on Thursday.

69-year-old Singh, who released from Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail on Thursday morning, crossed to the Indian side at Wagah border where he was welcomed with garlands and red shawls by his family and villagers, after completing official procedures on the Pakistan side of the border.

Surjeet was arrested by Pakistan for spying in 1981. He was given the death penalty in 1989, which was later commuted to a life term.

After he emerged from the jail in Pakistan, Surjeet Singh said he was looking forward to meeting his family. "During my imprisonment I often remembered my family and children. Today I am very happy. I will go to the Golden Temple to pray and hug my children," he told reporters.

Surjeet Singh said he would request the Indian government to release Pakistani prisoners lodged in various jails across India. Addressing reporters outside the jail in Punjabi, Surjeet said he had been arrested on charges of spying and would not return to Pakistan because he might be accused of the crime again.

Surjeet's release made headlines after the Pakistani government confused his name with that of another Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh who is incidentally lodged in the same jail. The news came as a blow to Sarabjit's family in Jalandhar. Sarabjit has been jailed in Pakistan for the past 22 years. He was awarded the death penalty in 1990 Lahore serial blasts case. His fifth mercy petition is pending before Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. On Wednesday, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Home Minister P Chidambaram appealed to Pakistan to release him as well.

Awais Sheikh, the counsel for Surjeet Singh, told the media on Wednesday that the Indian national was arrested by Pakistani police on charges of spying during the regime of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.

Singh was given the death sentence under the Pakistan Army Act in 1985. The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1989 by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

Sources said Singh had held meetings with other prisoners in Kot Lakhpat Jail on Wednesday to bid them farewell. He also requested the authorities to serve him 'sewai' to celebrate his impending release, the sources said.

Hours after reports emerged on Wednesday that Pakistan was to free Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, the presidential spokesman clarified that authorities had actually ordered the release of Surjeet and not Sarabjit.

(With additional inputs from PTI)

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