Strong Possibility of Sarabjeet Singh Release

The Possibility of Sarabjeet’s release from jail has improved. It is well known that Sarabjeet has been in the Kot Lakhpat jail of Lahore in Pakistan for the past 18 years.

According to Sarabjeet Singh’s lawyer in Pakistan, Mr. Abdul Hamid Rana, Sarabjeet has been brought out from death row. Now he is with other political prisoners. There is news that now Sarabjeet will be given the same conveniences as others.

Farooq Nayak, the minister for law at the centre in Pakistan visited Sarabjeet Singh in jail in the first week of October. After that, the file of Sarabjeet Singh was requested by the Pakistani law minister for perusal.

Although the power of release Sarabjeet Singh lies with President Aasif Ali Zardari, the law minister is studying the matter. Bringing Sarabjeet out of the death cell is a hint that president Zardari can announce his release at any time.

Sarabjeet Singh, a resident of Tarantaran in Punjab state of India has been in Jail in Pakistan since 1990. He was charged with spying and causing 4 bomb blasts. One surprising thing to note is that the name of the person associated with the bomb blasts in Pakistan is addressed as Manjeet singh. His family members in India gave proof that the person being addressed as Manjeet singh is not Manjeet singh but a simple, gentle and innocent member of their family, Sarabjeet Singh who crossed the border, drunk, and was caught by the Pakistan police. At that time in 1990, there were four serial bomb blasts in Lahore, where Pakistan police arrested him as the main conspirator and put him in jail.

Prominent huma
Prominent huma

The date set for hanging Sarabjeet was April 1st this year. But after the change of power in Pakistan, then president Parvez Musharraf postponed the date of hanging for thirty days. Musharraf did so to allow the newly elected Pakistan Government to examine the matter. Although the supreme court in Pakistan had already rejected Sarabjeet’s release plea petition.

After the formation of the new government, the newly appointed Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani inferred in it and postponed the hanging. Now the last decision about the release of Sarabjeet is to be taken by the president Asif Ali Zardari. It seems that his release may become possible at any time.

Human right organizations have been strongly demanding a ban on the death sentence and hanging in Pakistan and to change it into life imprisonment. Former Prime minister Begum Benazir Bhutto had also favored this. Around 7000 prisoners are facing death sentences in Pakistan at present.

According to human rights watch, a human rights organization in New York, it is the largest number facing death sentences in any country in the world. Last year, in 2007, the number of persons who were given the death sentence was 309, and 134 of them were hanged. The Pakistan People Party is preparing to issue a law, as a tribute to its former leader Benazir Bhutto, to change the death sentence to life imprisonment.

It was announced by the Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on the anniversary of 55th birthday of Benazir Bhutto. And a resolution in this regard to change the punishment was sent to the then President Pervez Musharraf. But Pervez Musharraf who was involved in his own problems could not take any decision in this regard. It is hoped that the present President Zardari will take an early decision on this recommendation of Prime Minister Gilani.

Undoubtedly the relatives of Sarabjeet have been working hard for his release. Sarabjeet’s sister Dalbir Kaur has been meeting the leaders at apex like Indian prime minister or sometimes to Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi and have requested for the innocence and release of Sarabjeet.

Recently, Dalbir Kaur in the company of Sarabjeet’s wife and two daughters went to Kot Lakhpat jail in Pakistan. There she served Sarabjeet with home cooked food for the first time in 18 years and tied Rakhi on his wrist after so long interval of time.

Undoubtedly the former human rights Minister of Pakistan, Ansar Burny played a very important role in encouraging his sister Dalbir Kaur and his relatives. Burny went to India and visited the family members of Sarabjeet in their house. There he took with him the proofs that Sarabjeet is Sarabjeet and not Manjeet. At that time Ansar Burny promised the people of India that he will help Sarabjeet for justice.

Interestingly he is the same Burney whose first opinion was that Sarabjeet is a terrorist and had killed 14 persons in Pakistan. Because of this assumption, Burney had no interest in the Sarabjeet issue. But after seeing the related proofs regarding Sarabjeet, Burney changed his opinion and is trying his best to arrange release.

Recently, in India, a senior Gandhian, Nirmala Deshpandey expired. The information and broadcasting minister of Pakistan Sherry Rehman came to Delhi, in this regard. At that time Rehman assured that Sarabjeet’s pity petition is with the Pakistani government and she will try her best for the release of Sarabjeet. The meeting of the law minister of Pakistan, Farooq Nayak with Sarabjeet and just after a few days, the bringing of Sarabjeet out of the death cell shows there is hope for Sarabjeet. It seems that the Pakistan government will soon give the pleasant gift of Sarabjeet’s release. Another Indian prisoner, Kashmir Singh was released from Pakistan jail a few days back.

Controversial issues such as the Kashmir problem bring bitterness in Indo-Pak relations but some issues like the release of Sarabjeet, can play an important role.

Both India and Pakistan should investigate the doubtful prisoners. Immediate steps should be taken to release the innocent. Undoubtedly this release will be an important and positive step taken in Indo-Pak friendship.

Tanveer Jafri

Tanveer Jafri is an award-winning journalist and peace activist, based in India, covering communal harmony and social activities.