Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss Indian national Sarabjit Singh’s appeal against his death sentence will not affect the stay on his execution ordered by President Asif Ali Zardari, official sources said on Wednesday.
The verdict that upheld the death sentence awarded to Sarabjit by an anti-terrorism court in 1991 for his alleged involvement in four bomb blasts in Pakistan came after his counsel failed to appear in apex court. Sources in the Pakistan government said the court’s decision would not affect the stay on Sarabjit’s execution.
“The President has stayed the execution and that is still there,” a source familiar with the thinking in the highest levels of the government said.
“Materially, there has been no change in the case due to today’s verdict,” the source said, adding that the apex court had upheld the death sentence given to Sarabjit in the past too. The government would weigh its “constitutional obligations” and explore various avenues while considering Sarabjit’s case, the sources said.
Sarabjit’s counsel had failed to appear in court for the past few hearings, including the last one on Monday.
Rana Abdul Hamid, the lawyer who was representing Sarabjit, told PTI he was unable to appear in court after he
was appointed an additional advocate general by Punjab province last year.
After a three-member apex court bench dismissed Sarabjit's appeal and upheld his death sentence, Justice Raja
Fayyaz Ahmed said in a short order: "We thoroughly studied the case and there is no such ground to review it."
Sarabjit has been on death row since he was convicted for alleged involvement in four bomb blasts in 1990 that killed 14 people. His family insists that he was wrongly convicted.
Sarabjit was set to be hanged on April 1 last year though Pakistani authorities put off his execution indefinitely after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani intervened in the matter.
Following an appeal by Sarabjit, the Lahore High Court had upheld his death sentence in 2003. The apex court too had upheld his death sentence in August 2005. Former President Pervez Musharraf dismissed Sarabjit's mercy petition last year.
Sarabjit's execution was initially deferred for 30 days by Musharraf so that the PPP-led government, which had just assumed power at that time, could review his case following India's appeal for clemency.
In October last year, then Law Minister Farooq Naek met Sarabjit at Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore to examine his case so that President Zardari could decide whether to pardon him. There has been no movement in this matter since then.