India seeks clemency for condemned Sarabjit Singh


New Delhi : India Tuesday sought clemency for Sarabit Singh, an Indian prisoner who is to hang in Pakistan, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying he had taken up the matter at the “highest level” in Islamabad.

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External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told both houses of parliament that the government had made another appeal to Pakistan to grant clemency to Sarabjit Singh on “humanitarian grounds”.

He said Pakistan had been urged to “take a sympathetic and humanitarian view of this case”.

Interceding on similar lines, Manmohan Singh told Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal that his government was making all possible efforts to seek a reprieve for Sarabjit Singh.

In an obvious reference to President Pervez Mushrraf, who alone can grant clemency, the prime minister said he had taken up the matter at the “highest level” in Pakistan.

The Pakistan Supreme Court upheld the capital sentence awarded to the Indian in 2006 on charges of committing terrorist acts in Pakistan. His family denies the charges levelled against him.

Mukherjee pointed out that both countries have put in place institutional arrangements to better the situation of prisoners.

These have included the setting up of a joint judicial committee and the visit of an Indian delegation to Pakistan last year in search of missing Indian defence personnel.

“It is in this context and in the same spirit that we appeal to the government of Pakistan to treat Sarabjit Singh’s case on humanitarian grounds,” Mukherjee said.

Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur and other family members have been meeting Indian leaders, lobbying for high-level intervention.

She met Congress president and chairperson of United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi, Mukherjee and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad.

“She (Sonia Gandhi) told me that she will put forward my appeal to the government,” Kaur told IANS.

Mukherjee told Kaur at his South Block office that all the political parties were united in supporting the clemency plea, she said.

“He (Mukherjee) said the government was doing its job and the entire country and all the political parties were behind us,” she said.

A distressed Kaur also handed over a petition to the Pakistan high commission here and faxed a copy to the office of Musharraf saying Sarabjit Singh was innocent and sought permission for his family to see him in Pakistan.

“We are now praying to god for a miracle and hope there is mercy in the heart of Persident Musharraf,” she said.