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Six Punjabis return home, others in Iraq ‘safe’, says Sushma Swaraj

CHANDIGARH: Six Punjabis hailing from Gurdaspur district, who were stranded in strife-torn Iraq, have returned home safely even as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday assured that all the Punjabis in Iraq were safe.

Jaswant Singh, a resident of Balewal village, Shamsher Singh of Sallo Chahal village, Satnam Singh of Natt village, Parhlad Singh of Aliwal village, Surinder Ram of Puranshala village, and Major Singh of Thikriwal near Qadian, all in Gurdaspur district, returned to their homes safely last night.

They travelled to their homes in Gurdaspur district after landing at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. It was a touching scene when Jaswant Singh reached his home amidst tears rolling down his face as his elder brother had died of heart attack a few days back after learning about the strife in Iraq.

He told reporters that after the recent strife in Iraq, his company neither paid him the salary nor his dues and only provided him with a return air-ticket to India.

According to Jaswant's family, he had gone to Iraq two years back and was working as a labourer in a company. He was stranded with other Indians after ISIS fighters took over the area where he was living.

Talking to the mediapersons during his ‘Sangat Darshan’ programme in Lambi assembly segment in Muktsar district, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that Sushma Swaraj had informed him over phone in the morning that all the Punjabis in Iraq were safe. He said that his government was constantly in touch with the Centre to ensure the safe and prompt return of all Punjabis stranded in Iraq.

With nearly 200 people from Punjab stranded in Iraq, the state government has decided to bear the expenses for bringing them back safely and also reimburse the expenses incurred by distressed families for making phone calls to Iraq, an official spokesman said earlier in the day.

Knowing well that making frequent international calls was a costly affair, the Chief Minister has decided that the state government would repay the entire expenditure incurred by them on making these calls, he said.

The Punjab Government had on Friday submitted a detailed report to the External Affairs Ministry about the 200 Punjabis stranded in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Punjab BJP chief Kamal Sharma said that NDA government was making all out efforts to ensure the safe return of Indians working in Iraq and expressed satisfaction with the diplomatic efforts made in this direction so far. Punjab Congress has also started a helpline at its party headquarter in Chandigarh.