India appeals to Pakistan for mercy to Sarabjit

March 17th, 2008 - 6:11 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) India Monday appealed to Pakistan to “keep sentiments of people” in mind and hoped that “some leniency” will be shown to Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner who is set to he hanged April 1 for his alleged involvement in four bomb blasts nearly two decades ago. “In the Sarabjit Singh case, we had earlier also conveyed the strong sentiments of our people and requested for some clemency and reprieve to him. We hope that considering humanitarian aspects, some leniency would be shown to him (Singh),” Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

He, however, added India has limited options and can only make an appeal on humanitarian grounds.

Officials of the Indian high commission in Islamabad are in touch with the Pakistan government over the issue and have asked for consular access to Sarabjit Singh, official sources told IANS.

They have conveyed to the Pakistani authorities that Sarabjit Singh’s execution will strike a jarring note at a point when the two sides are looking forward to resuming composite dialogue, likely in April.

President Pervez Musharraf’s rejection of Sarabjit Singh’s mercy petition and the issuance of a death warrant for him early this month is seen as a retaliatory move by Islamabad after the body of Khaled Mehmood, who died in an Indian jail, was sent to his country early this month. Mehmood died of an illness in an Indian jail.

The Pakistani side may try to strike a deal with India for release of Pakistani prisoners, some of whom have been held in India on charges of colluding in terror activities, before granting reprieve to Sarabjit Singh, said reliable sources, who did not wish to be named.

Only a pardon by Musharraf can save Sarabjit Singh.

Sarabjit Singh’s family, who denies he was a spy, is already here to drum up support for a high-level intervention to save their kin.

They met Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, the son of ruling United Progressive Alliance chair Sonia Gandhi and a parliament member, and requested him for the government’s intervention in the case.

According to a member of the delegation, the family’s 30-minute meeting with Rahul Gandhi took place around 11 a.m.

“He listened to us very nicely and assured us that he will speak to his mother (Congress president Sonia Gandhi) and to the Prime Minister on this issue,” Sarabjit Singh’s brother-in-law Baldev Singh told IANS.

He said they still awaited communication from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on their request for a meeting. “We haven’t heard anything from there yet. But, we are hopeful,” said Baldev Singh.

Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur said Rahul gave them his personal telephone number and assured them all assistance in securing Sarabjit’s life. Dalbir Kaur, who rushed to New Delhi from her village Bikhiwind in Punjab late Sunday night, has been making the rounds of major media houses in the capital to drum up public opinion that will put pressure on the Indian government.

Sarabjit Singh’s mercy petition was sent to Musharraf along with that of Kashmir Singh, an Indian prisoner who was pardoned and freed earlier this month after spending 35 years on death row in Pakistani jails.

Musharraf rejected the petition after “thorough consideration.”

Subsequently, Pakistan’s Supreme Court too rejected Sarabjit Singh’s plea for clemency in March 2006.

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