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Sarabjit's kin return home with hope

By Rezaul H Laskar
April 29, 2008 14:19 IST
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The family of Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh today described him as a 'victim of bad luck' and appealed to the Pakistan government to pardon him as they left for India following a week-long visit to the country.

Coverage: The Sarabjit Singh Saga

"When I come back again, I hope you will send Sarabjit back with me. And we will all celebrate at this same spot," Dalbir Kaur, the condemned man's sister, told media persons at the Wagah border post as the family left for India.

"My brother is a victim of bad luck," she said.

Dalbir had come to Pakistan with her husband Baldev Singh and Sarabjit's wife Sukhpreet Kaur and his daughters Swapandeep and Poonam on April 22.

The family had an emotional reunion with Sarabjit after 18 years in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail the following day. The family had sought permission for another meeting with Sarabjit, but had to leave without seeing him as their visas, which were valid for only a week, expired on Tuesday.

Sarabjit's execution was on Monday put off by Pakistan authorities for up to three weeks, with officials describing it as a 'procedural postponement'.

Efforts to save Sarabjit from the gallows too received a boost with former premier Nawaz Sharif asking the Pakistan government not to hang him on humanitarian grounds.

However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief did not favour an unconditional pardon for Sarabjit, sentenced to death for alleged involvement in bomb attacks in Pakistan nearly two decades ago.

Sharif said Sarabjit should be released on the condition that he would be sent back to Pakistan if concrete evidence is found against him. Sharif also suggested that any review of Sarabjit's case by the Pakistan government should be linked to similar action by the Indian government in the cases of Pakistanis currently being held in the neighbouring country.

Asked by media persons about the admission by Kashmir Singh, another Indian prisoner recently released by Pakistan, about being a spy, Dalbir said a differentiation should be made between his case and that of Sarabjit.

"As soon as I had entered Pakistan, I had apologised on behalf of Kashmir Singh if the people and government of Pakistan had been hurt by his admission of being a spy," she said.

"I appeal to you again to forget this episode and to forgive him. Even after I go back to India, I will say that Kashmir Singh is an ungrateful person and perhaps he thought he would do well if he made such comments.

"Everyone in India, the people, government and media, has been hurt by Kashmir Singh's comments. The happiness among the people on his return was matched by the sadness on his comments."

Dalbir also appealed to prison authorities in India and Pakistan to treat all prisoners, irrespective of their nationality, as human beings.

"After reading about my brother's experiences in jail in his earlier letters, I was hurt. There should be no ill-treatment of prisoners as they are sad people," she said.

She admitted that Sarabjit was now in fine health, but said no one should face the same treatment that he had endured in his earlier years in prison.

"Whenever a person is arrested, police don't treat him with love," she said.

"I am grateful to all the jail officials for letting me meet Sarabjit. They also prayed along with me that he should be released soon. I asked the officials about my brother and they all said he is a very good human being. No one had complaints against him," Dalbir said.

Poonam, the younger of Sarabjit's two daughters, said, "I don't think the prison authorities are troubling my father. The jail superintendent told us he is a very good person."

Sarabjit was sentenced to death for alleged involvement in four bomb blasts that killed 14 people in 1990. He was originally set to be hanged on April 1, but his execution was deferred for 30 days by President Pervez Musharraf.

This was done so that Pakistan's new government could review his case following an appeal for clemency from the Indian government.

According to existing rules, Sarabjit's case has to be put up again before a local court for fixing a fresh date for the execution. The fresh date 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, officials said.
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Rezaul H Laskar
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