Sarabjit Singh is a simple, ordinary man who got caught in the politics between two countries – Pakistan and India. This ordinary man has been suffering the consequences of the hatred filled politics between the two countries. The citizens of India and Pakistan are also paying for this dirty politics at the political, economical and social level. The story of the prisoners in the jails of these two countries tells the story of the hatred between the politicians of the two countries on the one hand and on the other hand, of the few people who are trying to snuff out the fire of hatred between the two nations. And the latter are those people on whom many expectations are placed. From this issue onwards, Chauthi Duniya will publish the entire story of Sarabjit Singh. This is the story of how efforts were made to furnish many incomplete facts – facts about which the Governments of India and Pakistan were ignorant. Bringing the story of Sarabjit Singh and the truth forward is Sarabjit Singh’s Pakistani lawyer, Awais Sheikh.
Sarabjit was born on 19 March 1962. He passed his matriculation from the Government Senior Section School, Bhikhiwind. With the aim of supporting his family, he started working in the fields which were a few kilometres away from his home, close to the Indo-Pakistan border. A farmer with meagre means, he started earning for his family by driving a tractor for someone else. He was pleased with what he earned after the day’s hard work. In 1984, he got married to Sukhpreet Kaur. He had two daughters Punamdeep Kaur and Swapandeep Kaur, who were then three and one year old. He was an expert player of Kabaddi, a popular sport in Punjabi villages. It was August 1990 when he was working among the fields along the Indo- Pak border. Farmers from both the sides usually came to the border at 9 o’ clock, showed their ID cards and started their work every morning.
The Man- Eater…….No Man’s Land
The farmers toil hard and irrigate the soil with their sweat till dusk when they gradually trudge back to their dwellings in their respective countries. Day in and day out this has been the order of the day for many years. There is a thin strip of land between the two countries —- the “No Man’s Land”. This strip of land is at the end of the country but it proved to be the beginning of troubles for Sarabjit. Many innocent people from both the sides have been trapped by the same careless step. The laws in this case are far too rigid. Many Indians and Pakistanis are in each others jails for this minor fault. On 8 August, 1990 Sarabjit stepped across “No Man’s Land” onto the soil of Pakistan. For him, “No Man’s Land” turned out to be a man-eater. His sister maintains that his stepping over was unintentional. She took me to the fields where Sarabjit used to work. I could see the Pakistani farmers working across the fence. Dalbir Kaur revealed that this fence was not there in 1990. She said that Sarabjit remained missing for many years; “we had no clue and did not know what to do”. In complete obscurity and despair, one day after many painful years, we received a letter by post. It said, “I have been arrested in Pakistan. I am in jail”, Sarabjit.
Getting out of the Anti Terrorist Court somehow, Sarabjit managed to throw a piece of paper towards a passerby. The God fearing man read these lines and the address and posted the letter to India. At this time Sarabjit’s case was to be presented in the High Court. He was helpless and could look nowhere for protection. Dalbir relates that she managed to collect Rs. 5 lakhs somehow or other and handed this over to a lawyer, Rana Hameed in Pakistan as a legal fee. The news of this case had crept into the press by this time. “The Indian spy Sarabjit Singh sentenced to death in Pakistan”. The details said he was involved in four blasts in Lahore and Faisalabad killing fourteen people. Yet another line said that the agent of RAW had confessed.
The due process according to the law and the Constitution was not followed. Several fundamental legal issues at the centre of the case have never been addressed or resolved. The investigation agency was guilty of introducing false witnesses. Sarabjit has certainly been a victim of unfair conviction that has caused him to be in prison for his entire adult life.
The irony of the situation was hidden behind a curtain unknown to the public.
The accused person in this case is Manjit Singh, son of Meghna Singh. The Special Terrorist Court upheld the death sentence, rejecting Sarabjit’s appeal. This created an upheaval in the Indian press. Then, on the 8 August, 2005 the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the decision of the High Court. Again on 24 August, 2009 the review petition too was rejected. This was received like a storm in the Indian press and the general public. This was the round-up
of events when I was called in to defend the convict.
As the Attorney of Sarabjit I had to take swift actions, the detail of which I have included in another chapter. I applied to the Supreme Court for special grant of permission to argue the case. I made emergency tours of India far and wide to muster public opinion.
In Chandigarh, I met Parkash Singh Badal along with some other citizens. I toured Delhi, Jaipur and Ajmer where we conducted press conferences. I also had the opportunity to meet American Ambassador, Farhatullah Babar – the President’s spokesman, and the Indian ambassador in Pakistan. I got in close touch with the international media and the Human Rights Organisations. I had started this campaign on my own in Pakistan but soon the people ofIndia joined me which was a helpful factor. The international support shall go a long way in the release of my client. The Indian Government has listened to the public voice and has taken appropriate steps at every level.
Sarabjit’s case is an extraordinary miscarriage of justice. There have been numerous and far reaching legal flaws in the case which I would like to point out. My intention is not to attack the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan. The point in this case is simple : that the due process according to the law and the Constitution was not followed. Several fundamental legal issues at the centre of the case have never been addressed or resolved. The investigation agency was guilty of introducing false witnesses. Sarabjit has certainly been a victim of unfair conviction that has caused him to be in prison for his entire adult life.
(To be continued )