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Sarabjit unlikely to benefit from new plan

world Updated: Jun 23, 2008 14:24 IST

Indian national Sarabjit Singh, on death row in a Pakistani jail, is unlikely to benefit from the government's proposal to commute all death sentences to life imprisonment as he was convicted for a terrorist act.

The remission would not be applicable to Sarabjit as he has been convicted on charges of terrorism and espionage, sources in the Interior Ministry said.

Only those who were not involved in crimes like terrorism, bombings and spreading sectarian hatred could benefit from Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's recent announcement about asking President Pervez Musharraf to commute death sentences to life imprisonment, the sources told the influential Daily Times newspaper.

Gilani had announced in parliament on the birth anniversary of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto on June 21 that the Interior Ministry would be asked to move a proposal to the President to commute the sentences of all prisoners on death row to life imprisonment.

The Prime Minister had also said that the government intended to grant a remission of 90 days to prisoners. He, however, added that the remission would not apply to "those involved in heinous crimes".

Pakistani official sources had indicated to PTI shortly after Gilani's announcement in the National Assembly that Sarabjit, who was sentenced to death for alleged involvement in four bomb attacks that killed 14 people in 1990, was not likely to benefit from the proposed remission.

Shortly after Sarabjit's execution was put off indefinitely in May, the interior ministry recommended that his death sentence should not be commuted to life imprisonment as such a move could "encourage subversive activities".

Senior officials in Pakistan are now working to find a way to send Sarabjit back to India in exchange for Pakistani prisoners detained in Indian jails, sources said. Retired judge Nasir Aslam Zahid has been assigned the task of "drafting a charter of demands to be presented to Indian authorities, proposing the possible exchange of Pakistani prisoners in India in exchange of Sarabjit," sources said.

Sarabjit's family insists that he is innocent and was wrongly convicted for the bomb attacks. His family also denies that Sarabjit is a spy named Manjit Singh as claimed by Pakistani authorities, and maintains that he accidentally strayed into Pakistani territory in an inebriated condition.