Burney to collect evidence for saving Sarabjit

April 2nd, 2008 - 11:41 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Attari (Punjab), April 2 (IANS) Pakistan’s former minister Ansar Burney crossed over into India from Pakistan at the Wagah border Wednesday to collect “evidence of innocence” of Sarabjit Singh - an Indian sentenced to death in Pakistan on terrorism charges. But that is not the only focus of his mission in India. Burney suggested that India and Pakistan government should sit together and work out a one-time mutual exchange of prisoners languishing in each other’s prisons.

“I have no sympathy for terrorists. They should be given the most severe punishment. But the innocent people languishing in jails in both countries should be spared. Their families have been made to suffer enough,” Burney told reporters here upon arrival in India.

Pakistan’s former caretaker human rights minister was instrumental in the release of Indian prisoner Kashmir Singh last month from the Lahore jail after 35 years in jail.

The well-known Pakistani human rights activist - who is accompanied by his wife, son and a friend - said that his visit was aimed at collecting evidence in Sarabjit’s case and also to enable the release of at least 46 Pakistani prisoners who were languishing in Indian jails despite completing their sentences.

Burney was welcomed here by Punjab’s Information and Public Relations Minister Bikram Singh Majithia. Burney went to Bhikhiwind town to meet other family members of Sarabjit Singh.

Sarabjit Singh of Bhikhiwind town near Amritsar has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for his alleged involvement in blasts there in 1990. He was to be hanged March 31 but his hanging was postponed till April 30 by the Pakistan government following intervention by the Indian government.

“If he is innocent and I can collect enough evidence to save him, I vow to fight for him till the end. It is not going to be easy but we will have to convince authorities in Pakistan that he had indeed strayed inadvertently into Pakistan in an inebriated state and was caught,” said Burney.

Courts in Pakistan upheld Sarabjit’s death sentence after the police identified him as Manjit Singh who was involved in blasts in Multan and Lahore in which several Pakistanis lost their lives.

“My brother is innocent. He is not Manjit but Sarabjit. It is a case of mistaken identity. I hope that Burney Sahib is able to get justice done in his case too. We are very hopeful,” Sarabjit’s distraught sister Dalbir Kaur said as she arrived here to welcome Burney.

Sarabjit’s family provided copies of their complaint filed with the Bhikhiwind police station September 4, 1990 informing about his disappearance Aug 28 that year.

“This document is strong proof that he actually strayed into Pakistan territory that year,” Burney said while indicating that a lot still needed to be done to save Sarabjit from the gallows.

Burney will travel to Chandigarh Thursday to meet Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. He is also expected to go to Nangal Choran village in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab to meet Kashmir Singh whom he got released.

Burney will then travel to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the union home minister and others.

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