Musharraf stays Sarabjit’s execution by a month

March 19th, 2008 - 7:37 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, March 19 (IANS) Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has postponed the execution of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, facing death penalty on terrorism charges, by a month to April 30, a senior official said Wednesday. “Yes, the death sentence has been postponed for a month but he has not been granted mercy,” an official of the interior ministry told IANS.

He said the ministry has received “information” that the president has ordered postponement of the execution of the death sentence for a month.

Sarabjit Singh, the Indian sentenced to death in 1991 for spying and carrying out four bomb blasts in Pakistan, was to be hanged April 1 following Musharraf’s rejection of his mercy plea.

However, after pleas from human rights groups, the president postponed the hanging.

Sarabjit’s mercy appeal was pending before the president for long. However, there were expectations that like Kashmir Singh, an Indian spy who returned home last month after his mercy appeal was accepted by Musharraf, Sarabjit may also get mercy from the president.

Kashmir Singh, who spent almost 34 years in Pakistani jails, was sentenced to death for spying in Pakistan but was released last month. After reaching India he admitted he had been spying for Indian intelligence agencies and was paid Rs.400. He later denied he made the statement and asserted that the media distorted it.

This statement shocked the Pakistani media and human rights group, particularly outgoing caretaker Human Rights Minister Ansar Burney who had lauded the government and the president for granting him mercy.

Sarabjit Singh’s family has waged a public campaign in India for his release. Politicians, human rights activists and film stars have joined the Bikhiwind family’s campaign for his release.

His sister Dalbir Kaur has met leaders, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, in New Delhi this week.

Pakistani authorities claim that Sarabjit Singh carried out three bombings in Lahore, which claimed 14 lives and left dozens of others injured.

The first of these bombings was at Lahore’s Chowk Bhatti Gate May 18, 1990. Eyewitnesses to the bombing claimed to have seen Sarabjit Singh, clean-shaven and impersonating as a policeman, arrive with a bag containing the explosive device, which he left with a shopkeeper, saying he was going to visit a nearby shrine.

At Bhabra Bazaar, where the next bomb went off, eyewitnesses again claimed he had left an explosive-packed bag amid the crowd around a fruit-juice stall.

Finally, the conductor of a bus that was bombed at Nizambad Chowk July 28, 1990, identified him as the individual who had left a bag on the bus before de-boarding.

Sarabjit Singh never identified himself to his interrogators by his real name; nor did he disclose his identity at any stage during the trial or even in his confessional statement.

Pakistani prosecutors and witnesses described him throughout the legal process as Manjit Singh - an individual Sarabjit Singh’s defenders point out he demonstrably is not.

However, a police official at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, where he has been held for 17 years, said they had received the death warrant for Sarabjit Singh.

He said they had received verbal orders for staying his death sentence and written orders are expected in a day or two.

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