Patil draws parallel between Afzal, Sarabjit; gets flak

May 21st, 2008 - 9:34 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil

Mumbai/New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) Home Minister Shivraj Patil Wednesday drew a parallel between the cases of Afzal Guru, convicted for his role in the 2001 parliament attack, and Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan, drawing flak from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The home minister said those asking for Guru’s hanging cannot at the same time seek reprieve for Singh.

“If you are asking for Afzal Guru’s hanging, then how can you ask for pardon for Sarabjit Singh?” Patil told reporters in his hometown Latur in Maharashtra.

Singh has been sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in four bomb blasts in Pakistan nearly two decades ago. His hanging has been deferred for the time being after the Indian government sent a mercy plea.

Those seeking a reprieve for Singh have argued that it was a case of mistaken identity and that he was not present at the crime spots.

Asked what would be done in Guru’s case, Patil said: “We will do whatever is appropriate according to law”.

The home minister also said that a whole community could be held responsible for the parliament attack, referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticism that Guru was not being hanged because the Congress wanted to appease the minority community.

Guru has been sentenced to death by the Supreme Court for his role in the parliament attack, but his mercy petition is pending before the president.

The opposition, which has been demanding that Guru be hanged without delay, strongly criticised Patil’s remarks.

“What does he mean by this statement? Afzal is the prime accused in the parliament attack and has been sentenced by the Supreme Court whereas Sarabjit’s case is one of mistaken identity,” said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“It is irresponsible on his part and compromises the security of the country,” Prasad held.

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