Fates of Sarabjit, Chishty figure in Rajya Sabha (Lead)

August 11th, 2011 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 11 (IANS) The fates of an Indian prisoner in Pakistan and a Pakistani jailed in India were raised in the Rajya Sabha Thursday as the upper house took up question hour after three days of disruptions.

The issue of pardon for both Sarabjit Singh, on the death row in Pakistan, and Khaleel Chishty, a Pakistani national serving life sentence in India, was raised during teh question hour. While External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna said India has asked Pakistan to free Sarabjit on humanitarian grounds, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the home ministry was looking into the case of Chishty.

Answering a question on Indian prisoners in Pakistan, Krishna was further asked about the status of Sarabjit Singh, sentenced to death after being convicted for alleged involvement in multiple blasts in Lahore and Multan in 1990.

Stating that the issue is being raised with Pakistan government, the minister said Pakistan should pardon him on humanitarian grounds.

“It is necessary for them to take a humanitarian view of the petition,” Krishna said.

“It is not our case that he was involved (in those blasts), we don’t share that (Pakistan’s view of his involvement),” Krishna said.

Sarabjit Singh was sentenced to death Sep 15, 1991, on charges that he was involved in three bomb blasts in Lahore and one in Multan. His mercy petition is pending before Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

Early this month, a hearing on a petition challenging a possible presidential pardon for Sarabjit Singh was adjourned till Sep 20 by a Lahore court.

“The government of India will do everything in its power to get the Indian national in Pakistan’s custody released,” Krishna said.

When the members asked about Chishty, the prime minister intervened and informed the house that the central government was aware of the case. He said the home ministry has been instructed to take all details from the Rajasthan government.

Chishty, an 80-year-old Pakistani doctor, is undergoing life imprisonment in a jail in Ajmer after he was convicted for murder. His mercy petition was cleared by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, and sent to acting Governor Shivraj Patil, who sought more details in the case.

Awarded life imprisonment in January this year, Chishty and some others were convicted for killing a man in a fight in April 1992. Chishty was on a visit to Ajmer for offering prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty.

Krishna said authorities from both sides met regularly to discuss the issue of their nationals in each other’s jails. “The high commissioners of India and Pakistan meet twice every year to discuss the issue of prisoners.”

The government has provided an ex-gratia of Rs.300,000 to the next of kin of Indian nationals in detention in Pakistan.

There are 558 Indian nationals in custody in Pakistan, Krishna informed the upper house. Of them, 232 are civilian prisoners, 252 fishermen and 74 missing defence personnel. The missing defence personnel include 54 Prisoners of War since 1971.

“The government of Pakistan has acknowledged the presence of only 72 Indian civilian prisoners and 237 fishermen lodged in Pakistani jails. Pakistan does not acknowledge the presence of any Missing Defence Personnel in its custody,” he said.

The issue of the release of Indian prisoners in Pakistan figured prominently in discussions between Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar here last month.

Krishna added that Pakistan released 454 Indian fishermen and 19 Indian civilian prisoners in 2010. So far this year, Pakistan has released 103 Indian fishermen and 12 civilian prisoners.

An India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners was formed in 2008 to make recommendations to the two governments on release of prisoners, he said, adding the committee has met four times so far.

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