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A new ray of hope for Sarabjit Singh

Source: PTI
Last updated on: June 21, 2008 17:22 IST
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In a move that could bring some reprieve to Indian death row convict Sarabjit Singh, Pakistan government on Saturday announced plans to commute the death sentences of prisoners to life imprisonment.

Making the announcement, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told Parliament that the Interior Ministry will be asked to 'move a summary to President Pervez Musharraf to commute the sentence of those on death row to life imprisonment'.

Under Pakistan Constitution, the President has powers to commute sentences.

The government's decision raised the prospects of the release of Sarabjit Singh, the 42-year-old Indian in jail for last 18 years for his alleged role in the 1990 bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan.

His hanging was put off indefinitely last month after the Indian government took up his case amid intense pressure from his family and Pakistani human rights activists like Ansar Burney.

Burney, a former human rights minister in the Pakistan interim government, said it was a 'great decision', which will help Sarabjit and ensure release of all those who have completed their life sentences.

"I am going to inform Sarabjit Singh's family. For a long time, the Indian government too had been requesting the Pakistan government. It is a great, great achievement," he said. 

On the impact of the decision, Burney said, "I think those who have completed their life sentence will be released as early as possible."

"But those who have some time to complete their life sentence, they will take a bit of time," the activist, who played a key role in the release of another Indian on death row in Pakistan, Kashmir Singh, said.

Gilani, who made the announcement to mark the 55th birth anniversary of his Pakistan People's Party leader Benazir Bhutto, also recommended remission of 90 days to the prisoners.

The remission will not apply to those involved in heinous crimes, Gilani was quoted as saying by the state-run APP.

Offering glowing tributes to Bhutto, who was assassinated in an election rally in Rawalpindi on December 27 last year, Gilani announced a number steps 'for national reconciliation for which she was a torch bearer'.

The prime minister announced the formation of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Trust, which will look after the children, particularly those from Federally Administered Tribal Areas, whose parents lost lives in terrorist attacks or by bombing.
"We have to pledge to the nation that we will make Pakistan a safe heaven for humanity and not for terrorism," he added.

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