File photo shows relatives of Sarabjit Singh. — File photo
Awais Sheikh, the counsel for Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh who was murdered in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail in May 2013, has taken permanent refuge in Sweden, the Times of India reported.
Sheikh took refuge in the Scandinavian country following his alleged abduction bid near Lahore a day before Singh’s death.
Singh, who was sentenced to death 16 years ago on espionage charges, died at Lahore’s Jinnah hospital after lying in a comatose state for five days following an assault on him in Kot Lakhpat jail.
Sheikh and his son Shahrukh were allegedly abducted from their Bedian Road farm on May 16 and were released three and half hours later.
Sheikh was known for fighting cases of Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails and had also written a book on the life of Singh titled ‘Mistaken Identity’.
Speaking to the TOI over telephone from Sweden on Monday, Sheikh said: "Sweden has granted me permanent stay along with my family and has also provided me all facilities and security after taking note of my abduction and physical torture."
The lawyer claimed that his life was under constant threat in Pakistan from people and organisations “inimical to India-Pak friendship”.
In his interview with the TOI, Sheikh mentioned a letter written by Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, on May 3 to Najam Sethi, who was the caretaker chief minister of Punjab at the time, for providing security to the counsel and his family.
Sheikh claimed that the letter was ignored by the provincial authorities.
Sheikh did not elaborate as to what he was doing in Sweden “except that he was just settling in the new place”, adding that however, his family felt secure in the Scandinavian country.
Prisoners of war
During the telephone interview, Sheikh, who also heads an NGO called “Pakistan-India Peace Initiatives”, quoted an incident of meeting a 1971 prisoner of war (PoW) Sepoy Mangal Singh of 14 Punjab Regiment in Central Jail, Lahore.
Sheikh said his intention in referring to Mangal Singh’s case was not to defame Pakistan but to remind and convince both countries “to realise their moral and international obligations and free all POWs with immediate effect”.
Islamabad has always denying the presence of any PoWs in Pakistani jails.
In 2008, the then federal minister for human rights, Ansar Burney, had told reporters that the Indian High Commissioner had handed him a list of around 100 missing Indian PoWs in Pakistani jails and that the Pakistani government was working to resolve the issue.
Also in May this year, Burney had written to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to conduct a probe on whether there were any Indian PoWs in Pakistani jails. However, no development on the issue has since come to light.
At the end of the 1971 war, New Delhi and Islamabad signed the Simla Agreement under which the countries were obliged to release soldiers that had been taken as PoWs. However, to date, there have been reports that both countries continue to hold some PoWs that had not been released.
There has been no official acknowledgement of such ‘prisoners’.