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Sarabjit Singh gets a 21-day lifeline

Last updated on: April 28, 2008 19:46 IST
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Just two days away from being hanged, Indian national Sarabjit Singh on Monday got a second brief reprieve after Pakistani authorities put off his execution for up to three weeks.

Coverage: The Sarabjit Singh Saga

There was a 'procedural postponement' of Sarabjit's execution by the home department of Punjab province, officials said.

Sarabjit, 42, sentenced to death for allegedly carrying out four bomb attacks in 1990 in Lahore and Multan, was due to be hanged on May 1 after the expiry of a 30-day stay of his death sentence granted by President Pervez Musharraf in March.

According to existing rules, Sarabjit's case has to be put once again before a local court for fixing a fresh date for the execution, Dawn News channel quoted the unnamed officials as saying.

Under these rules, this fresh date of execution cannot be fixed before a period of 14 days or after 21 days.

This means that the execution will be postponed for up to three weeks, the officials said. They added the decision was largely a 'procedural matter'.

Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq and presidential spokesman Maj Gen (retired) Rashid Qureshi told PTI that they had no word on this development.

Qureshi reiterated that Sarabjit's case was not pending with the presidency, which would act on the Prime Minister's Secretariat's recommendations in the matter.

Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur, currently in Lahore with his wife Sukhpreet Kaur and his daughters Swapandeep and Poonam, said the family was elated to hear of the postponement.

Bashir Khan, Deputy Superintendent of Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore where Sarabjit is lodged, said the Indian will not be hanged on the slated day.

"A letter will be written to the Sessions Judge on May 1 for further date of execution," he told an Indian news channel.

Dalbir, who is camping in the country to press for clemency for her brother, said she was awaiting word from the Pakistani authorities on the family's request for an extension of their week-long visas, which expires on Tuesday.

"If the extension is not granted, we will go back to India on Tuesday," she said.

Sources said Sarabjit's family had been advised not to meet top Pakistani leaders who were already working to get his execution put off because of protests organised by some hardline groups like the student wing of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

They said any meeting between Sarabjit's family and top leaders would attract media coverage and provide such radical groups more opportunities to organise protests and put pressure on the Pakistan government not to pardon Sarabjit.

Sarabjit, who is blamed for bomb attacks in Punjab province that killed 14 people, was originally set to be hanged on April 1. His execution was deferred for 30 days last month by President Musharraf so that Pakistan's new government could review his case following an appeal for clemency from the Indian government.

Earlier, former Human Rights Minister Ansar Burney, who has submitted a mercy petition for Sarabjit, said that he had sent a third reminder to Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and he hoped 'there will be good news within the next few days'.

Burney had played a crucial role in the release of another Indian prisoner Kashmir Singh, who spent 37 years in jail on death row, recently.

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