India asks Pakistan to show ’some leniency’ to Sarabjit Singh

March 17th, 2008 - 9:59 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) The plea for clemency for Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh on death row in Pakistan echoed across the country as New Delhi asked Islamabad to show “some leniency” to him and his family lobbied here for high-level intervention to save him. With appeals gaining ground, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma hoped that Pakistan would show “some leniency” to Sarabjit Singh, who is scheduled to be executed April 1 for his alleged involvement in four bomb blasts in Pakistan 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),” Sharma told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

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

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

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.

Speaking to IANS, Sarbjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur said the Indian government should release Pakistani prisoners who have completed their jail terms. “If they are ordinary prisoners who have completed their punishment, why should they remain in prison?” she asked.

The family has come down to Delhi after media reports from Pakistan said a death warrant has been issued for Sarabjit Singh in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.

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 said.

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

Singh’s family members met Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and requested him to press for the government’s intervention in his case.

According to a member of the delegation, the family’s 30-minute meeting with 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 also want to meet Mrs Sonia Gandhi and have asked for a meeting with the president,” he said.

Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur said Rahul gave them his personal telephone number and assured them all assistance in securing Sarabjit’s life.

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.”

The case of the Indian prisoner also featured in the Rajya Sabha, with opposition and ruling party members demanding that the upper house pass a resolution against the move to send him to the gallows.

The Punjab assembly Monday too passed a resolution appealing to the prime minister to take up Sarabjit Singh’s case at the earliest and request Islamabad to review the death penalty that “will ensure peace in the subcontinent”.

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