Sarabjit's family returns, confident of his release

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Wagah-Attari, Apr 29 (UNI) Brimming with confidence about his early release, the family of condemned Indian prisoner Sarabjit returned home today, after meeting him and Pakistani authorities during their week-long trip to the neighbouring country.

The family members, including Sukhpreet Kaur, the wife of the prisoner and their two daughters, Swapandeep and Poonam, his sister Dalbir Kaur and her husband Baldev Singh crossed this border checkpost with the hope and belief that Sarabjit would soon be with them.

''Though he is not with us today, our hopes have rekindled after meeting him in Kot Lakhpat jail and we feel that the recent three-week postponement of his execution date is a step towards his ultimate freedom, '' said Sukhpreet.

''Waheguru (god) has been kind to us so far and would soon answer all our prayers,'' she said as she folded her hands and looked skywards after stepping across the Radcliffe Line.

Before leaving for Pakistan on April 23, Sukhpreet along with her two daughters had offered prayers at the Golden Temple at Amritsar for the safe return of her husband.

Sarabjit's hanging was postponed earlier by another month to April 30 following an appeal by Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and he has been given a lease of three more weeks on the request of the Indian Government.

Recalling the night of July 1990, when her husband left saying ''I am going to irrigate the fields and would return as quickly as possible'', she said adding that though he is not with us today, but due to the positive approach of human rights activists, officials and above all both the governments, ''I am sure my wait will be soon over.'' Her two daughters told reporters with emotion-choked voices that the moment that they had been waiting for all their lives to meet their father, was too poignant to be summed up in words.

''I had never addressed anyone as 'Papa''', Poonam, the younger of the two sisters said, adding that ''but as soon as I saw him my eyes welled up and I kept saying Papa Papa Papa''.

While pointing out that she remembered nothing of her father as she was just two years old when he left home 18 years ago, the elder daughter said ''But today I have a solid picture of my father imprinted on my heart, which is becoming stronger by the days.'' Sarabjit, who was facing gallows for his involvement in a series of bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan, was also equally moved by the short reunion with his family.

He relished each and every item, including his favourite cooked vegetables, they had taken for him, the family said.

The family members expressed gratitude to the Pakistan government for repeatedly postponing the hanging of the condemned prisoner.

''The ray of light at the end of the tunnel, which was so far faint, has now become quite strong,'' said Sarabjit's sister Dalbeer Kaur.

UNI XC JN SP BST2134

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