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Pak Law Minister meets Sarabjit

world Updated: Oct 06, 2008 15:12 IST

Pakistani Law Minister Farooq Naek on Monday met Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh at the Lahore's Kot Lakhpath Jail to review his case following the Indian government's appeal for clemency for him.

Sarabjit, 42, has been on death row since he was convicted for alleged involvement in four bomb attacks that killed 14 people in Punjab province in 1990. His family insists that he was wrongly convicted for the bombings.

The meeting is underway and a clear picture will emerge only after it ends.

Naek had earlier said a final decision on pardoning Singh would be made by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The Minister will also consider the Indian government's clemency appeal for Sarabjit, sources said.

Sarabjit was originally set to be hanged on April one and his execution was deferred for 30 days by President Pervez Musharraf. This was done so that the new Pakistan People's Party-led government could review his case following India's appeal for clemency.

Pakistan's Supreme Court had earlier turned down Sarabjit's mercy petition.

After Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani intervened in the matter, Pakistani authorities put off Sarabjit's execution "till further orders".

Gilani announced a proposal to commute the death sentences of thousands of prisoners into life imprisonment on June 21 to mark the birth anniversary of slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto but it is still not clear if the move would benefit Sarabjit.

Naek said the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners from India would lead to the "promotion of human rights, peace and love" between the two countries.

He said "it would be a good action on the part of India if it expatriates Pakistani prisoners and their trail can take place in Pakistan. Or if they are convicted, they can serve their sentence here because they can be with their dear ones and family members."

Asked whether Sarabjit, convicted for alleged involvement in bombings, should be freed at a time when Pakistan has been hit by a wave of bomb attacks, Naek said, "Bomb attacks have their own place and humanitarian considerations have their own place.

"No final decision has been made. Let us see what happens. We will consider this issue calmly and with a cool head."

Sarabjit, whom Pakistani authorities say is Manjit Singh, has been on death row since he was convicted for alleged involvement in four bomb attacks that killed 14 people in Punjab province in 1990. Sarabjit's family insists that he was wrongly convicted for the attacks.

Sarabjit was originally set to be hanged on April 1 and his execution was initially deferred for 30 days by former President Pervez Musharraf. This was done so that the new PPP-led government could review his case following India's appeal for clemency.

Pakistan's Supreme Court and Musharraf had earlier turned down Sarabjit's mercy petitions.

After Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani intervened in the matter, Pakistani authorities put off Sarabjit's execution "till further orders".

Gilani announced a proposal to commute the death sentences of thousands of prisoners into life imprisonment on June 21 to mark the birth anniversary of slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto but it is still not clear if the move will benefit Sarabjit.

In August, the government informed the Supreme Court that it is yet to take a final decision on the proposal to commute death sentences.

Naek said the law ministry is working on a law to commute death sentences to life imprisonment in keeping with the Prime Minister's announcement.

"Most people want the death sentence to be abolished. The Prime Minister said in the National Assembly that the death sentence will be abolished. The President has also backed the move and wants the law on this to be made as soon as possible," he said.

This draft law is being prepared by the law ministry in line with the constitution and Shariat or Islamic law. Once the draft is finalised, it will be presented to the cabinet before being sent to parliament, which will make a final decision on it, he said.