LAHORE - The Punjab govt on Saturday released Editor-in-Chief of The Frontier Post and daily Maidan Rehmat Shah Afridi on parole. It was decided at a meeting held at the Civil Secretariat by the Provincial Home Dept. Besides Afridi, 20 more applications from various prisoners were given approval for their release on parole. According to a source, Co-Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari played a pivotal role in securing Afridi's release. Afridi was arrested on April 1, 1999 on charges of possessing 21 kg of cannabis (hashish), which were said to be recovered from his car outside a hotel in Lahore by the officials of  Anti-Narcotics Force. Another case was registered of recovering 651 kg of hashish from a truck allegedly owned by Afridi. Later on June 27, 2001, Anti-Narcotics Special Judge awarded death sentence on two counts in two drug-trafficking cases besides fining him Rs 1 million in each case. However, two co-accused Abdul Malik and Misal Khan were awarded life imprisonment alongwith a fine of Rs 2,50,000 each.  On June 3, 2004, the Lahore High Court spared the life of Afridi, while commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment. His case was the first in the legal history of Pakistan in which audio and videotapes were accepted as evidence. The tapes, recorded by the ANF showing Afridi apparently making deals to sell drugs to customers. Rehmat Shah Afridi, who is suffering from displaced vertebra columns, said his release was journalists win and he was also part of the same community. 'I am not an owner, but a journalist,who believes in this noble profession', he said, while, adding, that he was punished for being calling a spade a spade. (Picture on page 14) 'I have not budged even an inch from my stance of telling the truth. I have struggled for the journalists cause and will continue working', he added. Afridi was thankful to Zardari for playing a role in securing his release. 'He is my brother and friend, and I will never leave him. Besides this, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was my sister, and I will avenge her murder', he added. Secretary Home Department Nadeem Hassan Asif said a committee took the decision regarding Afridi's release on parole. 'His was not the only case rather 20 more prisoners have been released on parole. The basis of the decision is that the concerned prisoner has been not a violator of rules of imprisonment and has good conduct, and will prove to be a useful citizen to the society after his release', he added.