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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Zardari's fax paus - now says it is Surjeet and not Sarabjit

Till a couple of decades ago, there were some good typists who could type down pages without mistakes – remember, on a typewritten documents mistakes were irreversible – now it is an era of bungling by those holding the highest positions.. after Indian President granted clemency to a dead person, it was Pak President’s turn to order release of Sarabjit but later it turned out to be Surjeet

It was a day when newspaper headlines should have been on 2 resignations albeit differently made -  Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will resign late afternoon today [27th June 12] from his post to contest the Presidential elections, putting an end to a long political career.  On a different plane, Union minister for small and medium enterprises Virbhadra Singh resigned from his cabinet post to devote time to fighting the charges of criminal misconduct against him and his wife.  A Shimla court had framed charges against him in a case of criminal misconduct in 1989.  

Lot had been spoken about the imprisonment of Khalil Chishty, of his age and more of India Pak relations that could change dramatically.  Chisty  had been awarded life imprisonment after an 18-year-long trial in a murder during a brawl that took place in Ajmer in 1992.  it was then reported that court considered his age and academic qualification while allowing him bail !!! – will that by means attract retribution from the neighbour  ?

The news that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari had signed the order of release of  Sarabjit Singh, who is on death row in Pakistan  naturally brought happiness.  In India, the news was received by Sarabjit Singh’s family, especially his sister  who has been moving heaven and earth to secure her brother’s release, with joy.  Indian officialdom also reacted; External Affairs Minister SM Krishna welcomed the order of release and thanked President Zardari.  The Presidential spokesman,  had confirmed that Zardari had commuted the death sentence on Sarabjit Singh to life in prison, the equivalent of time served. Sarabjit Singh would be released after completion of the paperwork, it was stated.  Justice Markandeya Katju, who had campaigned for Sarabjit Singh’s release, praised Zardari’s “kindness and generosity” and “act of statesmanship”. Some analysts even saw that as a master move, coming as it did at the time of arrest of Syed Zabiuddin Ansar alias Abu Jundal, the Lashkar-e-Taiba operative who handheld the Pakistani terrorists who struck Mumbai in November 2008.

But before the ink could dry, it appears that Pakistan army had vetoed the release.  By midnight, Pakistani officials were putting out a vastly different narrative. It wasn’t Sarabjit Singh who would be released, but Surjeet Singh, another Indian prisoner in Pakistan who too had faced the death sentence, but which had been commuted. The same Presidential spokesman who had proudly proclaimed the imminent release of Sarabjit Singh was covering his tracks.

Sarabjit Singh, is an Indian citizen jailed in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities consider him as Manjit Singh, convicted for his alleged involvement in 1990 serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan that killed 14 people. Sarabjit claims that he is a farmer and victim of mistaken identity, who strayed into Pakistan from his village located on the border. He was given death sentence in 1991, but his hanging was repeatedly postponed. He is imprisoned in the Kot Lakhpat jail since 1990.

Surjeet Singh has been in jail in Pakistan since 1982 – and, as with Sarabjit Singh, there has been a campaign in Pakistan for his release. His release was thought of to be imminent and was in no way a surprise or act of amnesty. Surjeet Singh, currently being held in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore, has been in Pakistani captivity for over 30 years. He was captured near the border with India on charges of spying during the era of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.
There are reports that after the announcement on Sarabjit, representatives of Islamist groups in Pakistan voiced their sense of displeasure that Sarabjit Singh, who they claimed had carried out acts of terror in Pakistan and had killed Pakistani citizens, was being released.  So, the confusion [as it is sought to be made out] appears clearly to bear the stamp of veto by the Pakistani Army-ISI of the civilian government’s effort to respond to appeals from India for Sarabjit Singh’s release.  In a country that has not come to grip with its civilian rule, the considerations of peace with neighbour appear secondary as they grapple in an existential struggle with its military powers.  

Sad that Sarabjit still lives under the constant fear of a death penalty and after 21 years and news of his release, he still continues to suffer in the prison, with family grieving back home.  The unfortunate atmosphere of mutual lack of trust and ill-will, often people of the other country are regarded as evils.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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