Take decision on Afzal, says BJP; Congress defends delay (Lead)

June 9th, 2008 - 11:45 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil

New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) After parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru said he was tired of waiting for the government to take a decision on his mercy petition, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Monday restated its position - hang him or give him clemency. However, the ruling Congress has defended the delay on the ground that grant or rejection of a clemency petition was a constitutional process that would take time.

“Afzal Guru has called the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government indecisive and double-faced. We demand from the government that if the family of Afzal Guru has asked for clemency, it should either go ahead and give him clemency or reject it and hang him,” BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters.

“This is a matter of national importance and the UPA is dragging its feet on it for a long time. The BJP charges the government of not taking a decision for votebank politics,” he said. Afzal had filed his mercy petition Oct 4, 2006.

Rudy said family members of the security men who laid down their lives in the parliament attack Dec 13, 2001, have returned the gallantry medals in protest against the government’s failure to hang Afzal.

Afzal in an exclusive interview to IANS said that he was fed up of waiting endlessly for the government to take a decision on his mercy petition. Afzal also said that if BJP leader L.K. Advani became the prime minister there were chances that he would take a decision and hang him.

The BJP also said that Afzal’s case could not be compared to that of Sarabjit Singh, who is on death row in a Pakistan jail for his alleged involvement in bomb blasts in Multan and Lahore in 1990.

“The family members of Sarabjit Singh have said that if his case is compared to that of Afzal, then they would prefer not to seek clemency for Sarabjit,” Rudy said.

Sarabjit’s execution has been put off after the Indian government intervened on his behalf. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil last month compared Afzal’s case with Sarabjit, arguing that one could not seek clemency for Sarabjit while demanding that Afzal be hanged.

Criticising the comparison between Sarabjit and Afzal cases by Shivraj Patil, BJP president Rajnath Singh Monday said in Mumbai that the country wants to know why Afzal’s hanging is being delayed.

The Congress defended the delay in taking a decision on the clemency plea.

“There is no authenticity of Afzal’s statement, whether the interview was done with permission, and whether he actually said it or not. Rajnath Singh should know that is a constitutional process and hence it will take time,” Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said.

Guru was given death sentence in the parliament attack case by the Supreme Court in 2004. Six security personnel and one civilian were killed in the attack. Five terrorists who mounted the attack also were killed.

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