Goof-up in Pak; Is it Surjeet or Sarabjit?

Goof-up in Pak; Is it Surjeet or Sarabjit?

Faux pas costs Sarabjits family dearly

Goof-up in Pak; Is it Surjeet or Sarabjit?
A lackadaisical Pakistani government’s goof-up has cost the family of Sarabjit Singh, a death row convict in Pakistan, dearly. 

While the day was abuzz with the news of commuting Sarabjit’s sentence to life term by Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, a presidential spokesperson, in a late night announcement clarified that the Indian to walk out of Pakistani jail is Surjeet Singh and not Sarabjit.

“I think there is some confusion. First, it is not a case of pardon. More importantly, it is not Sarabjit. It is Surjeet Singh, son of Sucha Singh. His death sentence was commuted in 1989 by President (Ghulam) Ishaq (Khan), on the advice of erstwhile premier Benazir Bhutto,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

Law Minister Farooq Naek conveyed to the Interior Ministry that Surjeet Singh had completed his life term and ought to be released and sent back to India, Babar said. “Keeping him in jail any longer will be illegal confinement,” he added.

Any references to President Asif Ali Zardari in the entire matter was “out of context”, the presidential spokesman said.

Surjeet Singh, currently being held in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, was incarcerated in Pakistan 30 years back. He was captured near the border on charges of spying during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime.

Earlier in the day, Pakistani news channels had reported that President Zardari had converted Sarabjit Singh’s death sentence to life imprisonment.

Official sources, too, had said steps were initiated for Sarabjit’s release.
In New Delhi, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had even thanked Zardari for the steps taken for Sarabjit’s release. Sarabjit, 49, is languishing at Kot Lakhpat Jail and has been on death row for over 20 years. He was convicted and sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in a string of bombings in Punjab in 1990, that killed 14 people. He had sent a fresh clemency appeal to President Zardari last month.

Though Sarabjit was set to be hanged in 2008, Pakistani authorities put off his execution indefinitely after former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani intervened. His family has said he wandered across the border in an inebriated condition and was arrested by Pakistani authorities.

For the family of Sarabjit, who were unaware of the turn of events, it was a moment of long cherished relief and ecstacy in a Punjab village.

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