16 Sikhs handed back to India
By Mubasher Bukhari
WAGAH: Pakistan on Monday handed over 16 Sikhs detained in central jails in Lahore and Quetta to India in a goodwill gesture aimed at easing tensions between the two countries.
The 16 men were arrested by Turkish police at the Turkey-Greece border while trying to enter Greece illegally. Turkey handed them to Iran who pushed them into Pakistani territory where they were arrested by Pakistani law enforcement agencies. Ten of them were kept for 17 months in Quetta Jail and the rest at a jail in Lahore.
One of the Sikhs, Bachittar Singh, a resident of New Delhi, told Daily Times that a gang of Indian and Pakistani human traffickers took Rs 350,000 from each of them with a promise to send them to Europe, but abandoned them at the Turkey-Greece border. He identified Kashmir Singh, a resident of New Delhi and Nadeem, alias Thatha, a resident of Faisalabad, as the gang members. He said they had asked Iranian authorities to inform the Indian embassy in Tehran as they were Indian nationals but they did not, and instead pushed them into Pakistani territory. He said the Iranians took all their belongings before sending them to Pakistan.
Another man, Harbinder Singh, complained that the Indian High Commission in Pakistan did not visit them in jail. “Pakistani police presented us before a district judge who sentenced us to three months in jail but we have been here for the last 11 months,” he said. He disclosed that there were “dozens” of Indian citizens in the Lahore jail and many of them had served more than 14 years in prison without committing any crime. “They are going mad and we appeal to Pakistani and Indian authorities to do something for them,” he said.
A Punjab Home Department official told Daily Times that the delay in the release of the men was caused by the Indian government which was slow to provide their documents. First Secretary to the Indian High Commissioner RK Sharma confirmed this and said the men were being provided passports.
The 16 men are Manminder Singh, Shiv Kumar, Gurpareet Singh, Harvinder Singh, Kahar Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Harmesh Kumar Singh, Satnam Singh, Rajwinder Singh, Sarjeet Singh, Bachittar Singh, Balvinder Singh, Rakesh Kumar, Inderjeet Singh and Sukhwinder Singh.