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Sarabjit’s family rejoices

I am hoping clemency will be extended, says sister Dalbir Kaur

— Photo: AFP

KEEPING HOPE ALIVE: Dalbir Kaur (second from left), sister of Sarabjit Singh, with his daughters Swapandip (left) and Poonam (holding his photo) and wife Sukhpreet at their home in Bikhiwind, 45 km from Amritsar, on Saturday.

Amritsar/Islamabad: Sarabjit Singh’s home near Amritsar erupted with joy on Saturday after the Pakistan government put off the hanging of the Indian death row prisoner indefinitely, raising hopes of him escaping the noose.

“Sarabjit’s execution has been stayed,” Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told the PTI in Islamabad.

Asked how long would the execution process be halted, Mr. Shah said Friday’s order postponing the execution did not mention any timeframe. The execution was stayed till further orders by the government, according to Sarabjit’s lawyer Rana Abdul Hameed.

Sarabjit’s wife, daughters and sister offered prayers at a gurdwara at Bikhiwind village in Amritsar district and exchanged sweets. Scenes of joy were witnessed amid hopes that Sarabjit may walk free after spending 18 years on death row in a Lahore jail.

“Now I am expecting that the Pakistan government in the next few days would definitely extend the clemency,” said Dalbir Kaur, Sarabjit’s sister.

Sarabjit, whose family says he is the victim of mistaken identity, was to have been hanged on April 1 after being convicted of involvement in the 1990 blasts that killed four persons in Lahore. Ms. Kaur claimed that Sarabjit had crossed over to Pakistan inadvertently in 1990.

The family maintains he was arrested after the 1990 Lahore blasts, which left 14 people dead, at a different province of Pakistan in the name of Manjit Singh and he was not at the scene of the crime.

President Pervez Musharraf, who had earlier rejected a mercy petition, delayed execution until April 30. The execution was further delayed a few days before April 30 on technical grounds.

Significantly, the latest reprieve for Sarabjit, who is lodged in a Lahore prison for the last 18 years, comes days ahead of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Pakistan on May 21. Moves are also afoot in Pakistan to commute death sentences to life and Sarabjit may be benefited if it goes through.

Thanks governments

Dalbir Kaur expressed her gratitude to Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and President Pervez Musharraf for the reprieve. She also thanked PPP chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif.

Talking to PTI, Ms. Kaur said she was immensely happy and thanked the Indian government, which took the initiative and urged the Pakistani government to extend clemency to Sarabjit.

She said the former Human Rights Minister of Pakistan, Ansar Burney, had played a significant role to save Sarabjit’s life. It was Mr. Burney who had recently filed a fresh mercy petition before the retired General Musharraf.

In Jalandhar, Ms. Kaur said Mr. Burney had assured the early release of her brother. “I got a call from Mr. Burney late last night and he informed me he is going to meet Prime Minister Gillani and President Musharraf soon on the issue of fresh clemency petition submitted by me,” she told reporters. — PTI

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