New Delhi, February 11 Kashmir Singh, an Indian, is to be freed from death row in a Lahore prison after 35 years. He has turned into a mental wreck after languishing behind the bars.
According to the Pak state-run news agency APP, son of Sansar Singh from Punjab, he was discovered by Pakistan Federal Minister for Human Rights Ansar Burney at Central Jail Lahore after a nationwide search. The father of three, who was arrested in 1973 on espionage charges in Pakistan, was now “weak, old and mentally disabled” as he had “never received a single visitor or even seen the open sky, sun or moon”, Burney said in a statement.
Burney, a prominent human rights activist who was appointed minister in the caretaker government, said that President Pervez Musharraf had expressed “shocked and disbelief” after being told about Singh’s plight. Musharraf “promised to accept the mercy appeal and order the release of Singh in the coming days,” the minister was quoted as saying by the APP, according to the Indian Express.
Launching an appeal to try and locate the family of Kashmir Singh in India, Burney said he had received information from the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad about the possibility of Indian Prisoners of War in Pakistani prisons. He confirmed that his ministry was working to locate all such prisoners, if any. Burney revealed that he had been informed about Singh several years ago by members of the Indian Community in London. However at that time, he had been unable to locate Singh in his capacity as Chairman of the Ansar Burney Trust.
Kashmir Singh was sentenced to death under the Official Secret Act 1923 by the Court of Field General Court Martial in Lahore 35 years ago. The minister visited over 20 prisons all across the country in relation to his prison reforms. During a visit to Central Jail Lahore, Burney visited the various death cells and finally came across Singh. After the minister sought details from prison authorities, it was revealed that Singh had been confined for over three decades under the Official Secret Act in a death cell. Like other condemned prisoners, he was locked in an overcrowded cell for 23.5 hours a day and only allowed out for 30 minutes to stretch his legs, the minister said.