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No pressure from India to release Sarabjit: Pak

Source: PTI
October 05, 2008 19:39 IST
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Pakistan is under no pressure from India to release death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh and his case is being reviewed on humanitarian grounds, Law Minister Farooq said on Sunday on the eve of his meeting with the Indian at a jail in Lahore.

Coverage: The Sarabjit Singh Saga

"I will study his case. As far as pardoning him is concerned, a decision will be made in line with the law and the constitution. The final decision will be made by the Prime Minister and the President," said Naek, whose first meeting with Sarabjit at Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail on Monday has sparked fresh hopes of the Indian's release.

Sarabjit, 42, has been on death row since he was convicted for alleged involvement in four bomb attacks that killed 14 people in Punjab province in 1990. His family insists that he was wrongly convicted for the bombings.

Pakistan is under no pressure from India on Sarabjit's case, which is being looked into on a humanitarian basis, Naek told reporters on the sidelines of a news conference.

"Under article 45 of the constitution, a pardon can be granted by the President of Pakistan. I will only prepare a report and present it (to the leaders)," he said.

Naek also called on Indian authorities to consider the cases of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails.

"I understand that a number of Pakistanis are in Indian jails. Indian authorities should look into this issue and send these prisoners back to Pakistan. This repatriation is very necessary," he said.

Sarabjit was originally set to be hanged on April 1 but his execution was initially deferred for 30 days by President Pervez Musharraf. Gilani intervened in the matter and Sarabjit's execution was later put off 'till further orders'.

Gilani announced a proposal to commute the death sentences of thousands of prisoners into life imprisonment on June 21 to mark the birth anniversary of slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto but it is still not clear if the move would benefit Sarabjit.

Meanwhile, leading rights activist and former human rights minister Ansar Burney on Sunday demanded that President Zardari should commute all death sentences into life imprisonment in keeping with the announcement made Gilani in the National Assembly.

Without referring to the case of Sarabjit, Burney said after Gilani's announcement, the federal cabinet too had decided on July 2 to commute all death sentences but the decision was not implemented 'due to pressure from fundamentalists and suo motu action by (Supreme Court) Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar'.

Burney, who has played a key role in the campaign to save Sarabjit's life, said 65 per cent of death row prisoners in Pakistan 'are innocent and even unaware as to whom they killed'.

Even after the announcements regarding the commuting of all death sentences, four persons have been executed and a fifth is going to be hanged on October 8, he said.

More than 7,300 people have been on death row for many years, some of them for over two to three decades. Among them are 42 women and two children, Burney said.

Noting that the UN General Assembly had passed a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions on December 18, 2007, Burney said: 'When the General Assembly reopens discussion on this issue, we hope that the Pakistan government will have already either abolished the death penalty or joined in this moratorium.'

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