In a cruel twist of fate, Pakistan's presidential spokesperson claimed in the early hours of Wednesday that there had been a mistake, and the name of the person whose death sentence was commuted by President Asif Ali Zardari was Surjeet, not Sarabjit.
Blaming the media for the confusion, the spokesperson — Farahatullah Babar — identified Surjeet as an Indian citizen who had been languishing in jail despite the completion of his life sentence years ago.
At the same time, interior minister Rehman Malik denied charges that the government had backtracked on its decision to release Sarabjit. “It is absurd to think this was done due to army pressure,” he said.However, mediapersons think otherwise. "We know who is Surjeet, and who is Sarabjit," said Lahore reporter Waqas Ahmad. Another journalist noted that Surjeet's release was announced two months ago. "Why would they make the same announcement again?" he asked.
Babar and Malik also sought to distance Zardari from the entire episode. “The government does not interfere with the judicial process,” Malik said.
Certain quarters of the society, meanwhile, seemed very unhappy with the news of Surjeet's release — especially in the backdrop of the Abu Jundal incident. A spokesperson of the Difa Pakistan Council said, “Ameer Hamza (Jundal) had gone to Saudi Arabia to perform Umra. He was trapped.”
Syed Munawwar Hasan, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, threatened to stage a rally against Zardari. “They are killing our people and we are releasing their agents. We will not accept that,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan government still speaks of Sarabjit in a hopeful tone. “We are looking at the case from a humanitarian view. We know his mother is old… if the law permits, we will do something,” he said.