Pakistan Lawyers fraternity hailed Bhim Singh’s efforts for release of Pak & POK prisoners

Following is the statement of Prof.Bhim Singh, Sr.Advocate, Supreme Court of India, Chairman, Committee of Foreign Affairs/Seminars of SCBA & Supremo of National Panthers Party who returned last evening from Pakistan where he was invited by Lawyers Congress, Lahore to work out joint efforts to provide free legal aid to the prisoners of Pakistan in India and vice a versa. State Legal Aid Committee headed by Prof.Bhim Singh has been pursuing the cases of Pak & POK prisoners in India for the past over 15 years. The Supreme Court of India has ordered repatriation of nearly 300 Pak and POK prisoners from Indian jails. Several of them met Prof.Bhim Singh at Islamabad Press Club with thanks and gifts in the presence of media. Prof.Bhim Singh was accompanied by Mrs. Nasreen Hamid, Sr. Journalist and Khan Babur Jamshed, President, Young Panthers in U.P.

He managed to visit Pakistan after a gap of seven years on the invitation of Lawyers Congress, Lahore headed by Shri Zulfiqar Ali Jehangir. It was a great occasion that the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan honoured Prof.Bhim Singh with a shield to acknowledge his untiring and unique contributions in the free legal aid exercise before the Supreme Court of India. Nearly 300 Pak & POK including some prisoners from Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran have returned to their homes because of free legal aid provided by the State Legal Aid Committee headed by Prof.Bhim Singh. Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan in Lahore organized an impressive ‘welcome to Bhim Singh’ session presided by its acting President, Mr. Naeem Sarwar. Bhim Singh was presented a shield on behalf of the Supreme Court by senior office bearers of the Bar Association including Shri Sarwar and Supreme Court Bar Secretary Shri Asif Cheema.

Prof.Bhim Singh was also received by the Chief Justice of Lahore Court, J. Omar Atta Bandiyal at his chamber and presented with the High Court calendar. Prof.Bhim Singh also presented his book on J&K, ‘The Blunders & Way Out’. Justice Bandiyal has now been elevated to the Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Several delegations of the lawyers called on Prof.Bhim Singh to assure their services to the Indian prisoners detained in Pakistani jails. Mr. Justice Mohd. Sharief Khawaja, former Chief Justice of Lahore High Court gave a special dinner in honour of Prof.Bhim Singh. Several functionaries of lawyer associations including Justice Geelani (retd.) originally from Sopore, Kashmir were also present. Justice Khawaja visited India in 2006, he recalled, when he met Prof.Bhim Singh in Srinagar. Justice Khawaja presented his books to Bhim Singh. He also participated in the Lawyers Conference at Supreme Court Bar Association function in Lahore. He addressed the association saying that he has reached the function only when he read in newspaper that Bhim Singh shall address Supreme Court Bar Association in Lahore.

Prof.Bhim Singh was invited by Islamabad Bar Association to address the lawyers’ fraternity on the human rights and plight of Pakistani prisoners in India and the Indian prisoners in Pakistan. The President of Islamabad Bar Association, Mr. Nasir Ahmed Kiani in his welcome address, described Prof.Bhim Singh as a rearest of the rear advocate and human being who has been giving free legal aid to the foreign prisoners and nearly 300 of them returned to Pakistan only because of Prof.Bhim Singh. The Secretary of the Bar Association, Mr. Naem Gujjar described Bhim Singh, “Yeh sirf vakil hi nahin, insaan hi nahin balke farishta hain. He is not only a lawyer or a human being but a noble soul.”

Prof.Bhim Singh was giving a unique welcome by the Bar Association, Islamabad at a site where nearly a dozen advocates and a sitting Judge were killed in bombing only in March this year.

Prof.Bhim Singh has agreed to set up a joint free legal aid committee in cooperation with the Lawyers Congress, Lahore and the Bar Associations of Islamabad and Lahore. Several lawyers and the lady lawyers have enrolled their names in the new working set up in Islamabad and Lahore. Bhim Singh has been working on this mission for the past 15 years. The lawyers’ fraternity from Pakistan has consented to take up the cases of the Indian prisoners in Pak jails at their own expense. It was unique instance that the Governor of Lahore, Chaudhary Mohd. Sarwar has agreed to provide his patron ship to this joint initiative of the Indian and Pak advocates. Shri Jehangir Badar, Senator from PPP and a senior leader of the party has also consented to work for the success of this new initiative taken by Prof.Bhim Singh.

Prof.Bhim Singh during his visit to Pakistan interact the several prominent leaders of POK from different schools of thought and discussed with them about the new role the leadership of J&K has to play to build bridges of peace between New Delhi and Islamabad. President of POK, Raja Yaqoob Khan, Dy. Prime Minister of POK, Mr. Yasin Chaudhary of PPP gave a lunch in honour of Prof.Bhim Singh where several prominent legislators and ministers of Muslim League and Peoples Party were present. President of Muslim Conference & former Prime Minister of POK, Sardar Attique Mohd. Khan, Leader of opposition in POK Assembly Raja Farooq Haider (Muslim League-Nawaz Sharief), held a meeting at dinner in honour of Prof.Bhim Singh. Mr. Zulqarnain, Former President of POK was also present.

Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, Syed Mehdi Shah had one-hour meeting with Prof.Bhim Singh where they discussed the present status quo vis-à-vis Gilgit-Baltistan which was annexed by Pakistan in 2009 by declaring it as 5th province of Pakistan. Prof.Bhim Singh invited all these leaders to 3rd ‘Heart to Heart’ Talk which shall be held in J&K and New Delhi. The first two ‘Heart to Heart’ Talks were held in 2005 and 2007 when the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Shri L.K. Advani and former Maharaja of J&K, Dr. Karan Singh had received them and discussed the situation.

Besides POK leaders, several social groups, NGOs and representatives of the District Bar Associations of Mirpur, Kotli and Muzaffrabad called on Prof.Bhim Singh by driving from their respective places because Prof.Bhim Singh was not given permission by the Govt. of Pakistan to visit Mirpur, Kotli or Muzaffrabad. Prof.Bhim Singh described this attitude of Pakistan as highly undemocratic and unacceptable to the people of J&K. He hoped that the governments of India and Pakistan may realize that the situation of J&K can be resolved by the joint efforts of the leaders, intellectuals, media persons and social activists from both sides of J&K including the representatives of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Prof.Bhim Singh also met Ammanullah Khan, Leader of JKLF in Rawalpindi and discussed with him the new role in the new situation to seek peaceful resolution of the situation in J&K. He had two breakfast meetings with Sardar Qayyum Khan, former President & Prime Minister of POK and the oldest living legendary of J&K who had participated in two Heart to Heart talks (conferences) in Delhi in 2005 and 2007 on the invitation of Prof.Bhim Singh.

The entire leadership of POK has agreed to participate in the ‘Heart to Heart’ Talks. Besides, several intellectuals, professors and social activists including Prof. Safique Ahmed, Prof. Khaleek, Prof. (Mrs.) Geelani, President of the Bar Association of Mirpur, Kotli and Muzaffrabad have also consented to participate. Prof.Bhim Singh that the representatives of political parties of Pakistan and India, of course, representatives of all J&K based local parties including the Hurriyat Conference have already consented to participate. The representatives of Bar Associations of Lahore and Islamabad, of course, Lawyers Congress, Lahore shall be the special invitees.

Prof.Bhim Singh described his visit to Pakistan as a great occasion for him to understand the feeling of the leadership and the people in POK and in Pakistan vis-à-vis the J&K situation. The people of both sides of J&K and Pakistan love, peace and friendship between India and Pakistan. He said the people of J&K are capable to work as a bridge between New Delhi and Islamabad in future and ensure that all issues are sorted out with human dignity and respect. He hoped that India and Pakistan shall start a new chapter by allowing the people of their sides to visit across the LoC with identity cards as was the situation before 1956. This shall open the windows of peace and friendship between two countries. He declared, “The people of J&K shall work to demolish the walls of hatred by the winds of the love and peace.”