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No further postponement of Sarabjit hanging: Pakistan

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
April 19, 2008 16:25 IST
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The execution of Indian national Sarabjit Singh, sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in bomb attacks in Pakistan, has not been postponed further, a presidential spokesman said on Saturday.

The hanging of Sarabjit was deferred for 30 days by President Pervez Musharraf last month so that Pakistan's new government could review his case following an appeal for clemency from the Indian government.

Sarabjit was originally set to be executed on April 1.

According to the ARY TV channel, spokesman Maj Gen (retired) Rashid Qureshi Qureshi denied reports in the Pakistani media that Sarabjit's execution had been postponed for one more month.

India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday made a fresh appeal to the Pakistan government to grant clemency to Sarabjit on humanitarian grounds. There has not been any official response from Islamabad to Mukherjee's appeal.

Sarabjit's lawyer Rana Abdul Hamid has said the condemned man's case can only be considered by Musharraf as the president alone has the power to pardon him.

Leading rights activist Ansar Burney too has said he will file a fresh appeal with Musharraf to seek clemency for Sarabjit as there were several loopholes in his conviction by a Pakistani court.

Noting that India's external affairs ministry and Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani had also sought clemency for Sarabjit, Burney said, "Even if he is guilty, the death sentence should be converted to life imprisonment as Sarabjit has spent 18 years on death row."

Sarabjit, who Pakistan claims is Manjit Singh, was sentenced to death in 1991 for his alleged involvement in four bomb blasts in Punjab province that killed 14 people.

His family denies he is a spy as claimed by Pakistan and insists he accidentally strayed into Pakistani territory.

His mercy petition was rejected by Musharraf on March 3. Pakistan's Supreme Court too rejected Sarabjit's plea for clemency in March 2006.

However, official sources said it could be "awkward" if Sarabjit, currently being held in a jail in Lahore, was hanged ahead of the first meeting next month between Mukherjee and his new Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

The two ministers are scheduled to meet to review the previous round of the composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan that was concluded last year.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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