The Punjab provincial government in Pakistan on Monday announced a “procedural extension” of up to 21 days for Indian death-row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, pushing his date of execution by about three weeks. Sarabjit was to be executed by the end of the month but has now been given an extension by the home department. “This can be between May 14 and May 21," said an official spokesman.
In a related development, former Human Rights Minister Ansar Burney speculated that the extension has come because of the forthcoming visit of Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Pakistan. Burney said that the case against Sarabjit was full of holes and that he would personally meet President Musharraf soon to plead for clemency for the Indian prisoner. He said Musharraf can examine the case and commute Sarabjit’s sentence or let him walk free.
Many officials have speculated that the procedural extension given to Sarabjit comes after pressure from the federal ministry on the provincial Punjab government. However, Punjab government officials said the extension is a procedural issue and has nothing to do with instructions from the Centre.
Some observers said that hopes are high that a request for clemency from the Indian government may be honoured by Pakistan but no decision has yet been taken in this regard.
The right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami party and family members of the victims of the Bhaati gate bombing, the case in which Sarabjit is implicated, say that they will not forgive Sarabjit for his crime.