Sarabjit Singh’s murder has put the UPA government in a tight spot over the release of half-a-dozen Pakistani prisoners who have completed or are about to complete their jail sentence for espionage.
There is a view in the government that in context of recent developments, India should hold on to the convicts and release them only after negotiations with Islamabad conducted through diplomatic channels.
“Else, we seem to be heading into a situation where we are handing over their nationals and Pakistan kills ours,” a government official said.
Sarabjit Singh was the second Indian convict to be killed in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail. The first was Chamel Singh of Jammu who died in January this year, allegedly after he was assaulted. Pakistan insists he died of a heart attack but hasn’t shared his post-mortem report with the Indian government.
It is, however, unclear how long India would be able to defer the release of the Pakistani spies as a retaliatory
Excluding fishermen, there are about 220 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. A similar number of Indians are lodged in Pakistani jails.
The SC has been monitoring release of foreign prisoners once they have served their sentence. The court had told the government to deport convicts within a month of serving their sentence.
Sources indicated there has always been fear in terror and espionage cases about the convicts getting back to business after their release.