Struggling for the last four decades to secure release of her husband who is one of the 54 prisoners of war (POW), lodged in Pakistan jails since 1971 war, Nirmal Kour sees a fresh ray of hope.
With India and Pakistan agreeing to open the “Kartarpur Sahib corridor” aimed at facilitating easy passage of Sikh pilgrims to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib across the border, Ms Kour, wife of Subedar Assa Singh, said she is hopeful that it will help bring a thaw in ties and the two countries will look into the issue of PoWs to ensure their early return.
“My children are waiting for their father for the last 47 years. Nothing could be a better confidence building measure than this (ensuring return of PoW),” she said, while making an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for securing the release of the prisoners.
“We are hopeful that Kartarpur corridor will bring the two countries nearer and our miseries will be put to an end by seeking the whereabouts of the prisoners and ensuring their early return to their families,” she said.
Ms Kour said she along with other families of PoWs went to Pakistan in 2008 to look for them after meeting then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, but returned disappointed as “we were not allowed to visit all prisons”.
“We are hopeful that our prayers will get answered soon… We expect India and Pakistan to make a sincere effort and ensure the return of the POWs,” she said.
Ms Kour said, in the absence of any help, she faced a lot of hardships while raising her five daughters and two sons and worked as a domestic help to meet their requirements.
She said Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu helped them in the past and said, “We are hopeful that he will raise our issue with Pakistan Premier Imran Khan to end our miseries.”
Ms Singh’s children said the family had not lost hope despite the long ordeal.
“I want to see my father and that is my wish. I am sure my wish will get fulfilled,” said one of his daughters.
Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today laid the foundation stone for the Kartarpur Sahib corridor.