If there is one person in Pakistan who has consistently fought for the release of Sarabjit Singh, it was Awais Ahmad Shaikh, the lawyer hired by the family of the death row prisoner in 2009 after the previous lawyer walked out on them.
Shaikh went to great lengths to see that his client got justice under the Pakistani legal system and till the end he was hopeful of a reprieve.
In tears after receiving the news at Jinnah Hospital, Shaikh said he had lost not just a client but a friend, as well.
It, perhaps, explains his determination to pursue for justice for his client, despite the odds.
Shaikh was under constant surveillance of Pakistani intelligence agencies, his office was ransacked more than once, family and staff were threatened and he even lost potential clients and suffered financially.
While lawyers often fight to bag high-profile cases, Sarabjit’s was not a case that many wanted.
“The cost of taking this case was too high,” said a lawyer.
But Shaikh continued to struggle. There were times, he confesses, when he wanted to quit.
“What made me continue was that I was convinced that Sarabjit was innocent,” said Shaikh.
Another source of support for Sarabjit was former human rights minister and lawyer Ansar Burney, who has worked extensively for the release of Pak prisoners abroad.
Support also came from the slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer who had assured Shaikh that he would convince president Zardari to sign the pardon.