The Pakistan government, on Saturday, announced plans to commute death sentences to life imprisonment. This could bring succour to the Indian death row convict in Pakistan, Sarabjit Singh. Under the Pakistani Constitution, only the President has powers to commute sentences.
Making the announcement to mark the 55th birthday of the slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told Parliament that the interior ministry would be asked to “move a summary to President Pervez Musharraf to commute the sentences of those on the death row to life imprisonment”.
It is believed that more than a hundred men would benefit from this move.
Sarabjit Singh is in a Pakistani jail for his alleged role in the 1990 bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan. His hanging was put off indefinitely last month after India took up his case amid intense pressure from his family and rights activists like Ansar Burney.
Burney, a former human rights minister in the Pakistan interim government, said it was a “great decision” which will help Sarabjit and ensure release of all those who have completed their life sentences.
“I am going to inform Sarabjit Singh's family... For a long time the Indian government was also requesting the Pakistan government... It is a great, great achievement.”
Meanwhile, Sarabjit’s family came to know of the decision from the television channels. When contacted by HT, Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur said she was praying at Gurdwara Bhaini Sahib for her brother.
“I have come to Gurdwara Bhaini Sahib for the first time today to pray for my brother. My prayers have been answered. I cannot express my feelings in words and to thank the Pakistan government .The decision indicates that the government has made up its mind to grant clemency to him.”
Sarabjit, whose family says he is the victim of mistaken identity, was to be hanged on April 1 after being convicted of involvement in the 1990 blasts. On May 2, Pakistan had postponed the hanging till further orders.
Arrested and tried on charges of triggering bomb blasts in Lahore, Sarabjit Singh from village Bhikiwind in Tarn Taran district of Punjab has been languishing in Pakistani prisons for the last 18 years.