Indian in Pak death cell since 35 years

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Islamabad, Feb 11 (UNI) An Indian national has been languishing in a Pakistani prison for the last 35 years, Federal Minister for Human Rights Ansar Burney stated.

According to a statement released by the Ansar Burney Trust, Kashmir Singh was arrested in 1973 on espionage charges in Pakistan and sentenced to death under the Official Secret Act 1923 by the Court of Field General Court Martial in Lahore, 35 years ago. He has been languishing in a Pakistani death cell ever since and has now become a weak, old and mentally disabled man.

Federal Minister and human rights activist Ansar Burney revealed that he had been informed about Singh several years ago by members of the Indian Community in London. At that time, however, he was unable to locate him in his capacity as Chairman of the Ansar Burney Trust, the official Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

After taking oath as a Federal Minister, he visited over 20 prisons all across Pakistan in relation to his prison reforms and prisoners rights work, and to search for a number of prisoners who he and his organisation had been trying to locate for many years.

During a visit to Central Jail Lahore, the minister visited various death cells and finally came across Singh.

His details were immediately called for from the Prison authorities and it was revealed that Singh had been confined for over 3 decades under the Official Secret Act in a death cell; and during all these years he never received a single visitor or even saw the open sky, sun or moon.

He, like other condemned prisoners, was locked in an overcrowded death cell for 23.5 hours a day, only allowed out for 30 minutes to stretch his legs.

Kashmir Singh, from the Indian province of Punjab, due to his long confinement in a death cell, which the minister described as ''hell on earth'', became mentally disabled some years ago.

At the time of his arrest, he was a husband and a father of three young children -- two boys and a girl. He has not seen any of them ever since over three decades ago.

A summary was immediately made by the minister on behalf of the Human Rights Division of the Government of Pakistan to the President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf for the early release of Kashmir Singh.

The Minister also met the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad in regards to prisoners in each others countries; and has since also written to the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad to inform him about the case of Singh and to help locate his family in India.

Mr Burney said he also met with the President in this regard and believes that a mercy petition by him will be accepted in the coming days and Singh will be released very soon.

UNI XC SYU RAI1914

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