New Delhi : Islamabad has stayed indefinitely the execution of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan, his lawyer told an Indian news channel Friday.
“The death sentence has been postponed till further orders,” Sarabjit’s lawyer in Pakistan, Rana Abdul Hamid, told private television channel CNN-IBN.
He added that the instructions were issued by the Pakistani interior ministry.
Answering a question on whether his client’s sentence may be commuted, Hamid added, “We may think on this line. We may presume that it will be converted into life sentence”.
The Pakistani lawyer also reported that Sarabjit’s clemency petition was currently with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told NDTV that India was “awaiting confirmation” on the news. “We cannot comment with finality on these reports. We will be much relieved if that is the decision. India has been urging the government of Pakistan to take a humanitarian view and asked for clemency for Sarabjit Singh.”
The news comes three weeks before External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukhejee visits Pakistan on May 21.
The Indian government had previously asked for clemency on humanitarian grounds, following which the hanging had been postponed by a month to May 1. Then, by another order on April 28, the execution had been stayed for upto three weeks.
Earlier Thursday morning, the Pakistani information and broadcasting minister Sherry Rehman who led a three-member delegation to the funeral of veteran Gandhian and Rajya Sabha member Nirmala Deshpande, had said that Sarabjit’s case was under review.
“As far as Sarabjit’s status, we told didi (Nirmala Deshpande) that we will do our best and it is under review,” Rehman said, adding that Deshpande had previously raised Sarabjit’s issue with Pervez Musharraf.
Sarabjit’s elder sister Dalbir Kaur, his wife Sukhpreet Kaur, daughters Swapandeep and Poonam and brother-in-law Baldevy Singh, returned to India Tuesday after meeting him after 18 years in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail.
Sarabjit, known as Manjit Singh in Pakistan, has been sentenced to death for two blasts in Lahore and Multan in 1990 which left 14 Pakistanis killed. Incidentally, during his family’s visit, there were some demonstrations by the kin of the victims killed in the bomb blasts pleading against any mercy being shown to Sarabjit.
His family claims that he inadvertently crossed into Pakistan on August 1990 in an inebriated state from the border near his home town Bhikhiwind.
He was later caught in Pakistan and blamed for the two blasts. He was sentenced to death by a lower court there and the sentence was upheld by the Pakistan Supreme Court last year.
Musharraf had rejected a mercy plea from Sarabjit in March.
Human rights activist and former Pakistan minister Ansar Burney has submitted a fresh plea to the Pakistan government to free Sarabjit saying there was no concrete evidence against him in the blasts case and that he had strayed into Pakistan by mistake.