ISLAMABAD, June 27: The government on Wednesday removed an ambiguity regarding repatriation of a jailed Indian terrorist Sarabjeet Singh and announced that another Indian prisoner was being released.
“We are handing over prisoner Surjeet Singh to Indian authorities instead of Sarabjeet Singh,” said Rehman Malik, the adviser on interior, at a news conference.
He, however, said the case of Sarabjeet Singh’s release, the man who was sentenced to death by the Lahore High Court for a wave of bombings in Lahore in 1990, was under consideration and after meeting all legal requirements it will be sent to President Asif Ali Zardari for examining grant of pardon. In reply to an observation that the government had released Sarabjeet Singh but put him back in jail on the intervention of military authorities, Mr Malik said: “The Army has nothing to do with the case.”
The adviser added: “Sarabjeet’s case was placed before me, but due to some legal complications I referred it to the law ministry.”
Under the Constitution, the President enjoys powers to pardon any convict, including those who have been given capital punishment.
Rehman Malik’s statement brought to an end rumours circulating since Tuesday that the government had released Sarabjeet Singh after he was pardoned by the President.
“We have so far not sent Sarabjeet’s case to the President. Hence the question of pardon does not arise,” the interior adviser said.
In 2008 the government had turned down India’s request to release spy Sarabjeet Singh, son of Sulakhan Singh, who is on death row for his involvement in a series of bomb blasts in Lahore and Faisalabad in 1990.
Two appeals for pardon by the Indian spy have been turned down by the president and his execution has been postponed twice.
Rehman Malik said the Indian terrorist was sentenced to death in four different cases (three of them related to Lahore and one to Faisalabad). The sentence was confirmed by Lahore High Court on Dec 27, 2001, and upheld by the Supreme Court on Aug 18, 2005. His criminal review petition was also dismissed by the apex court on March 9, 2006. The adviser clarified that another prisoner, Surjeet Singh, 75, was being released after completion of his life imprisonment.
“He will be free within 24 hours and cross into India through Wagah border.”
Rehman Malik said Surjeet Singh was convicted by a military court under the army act for spying and was awarded death penalty. But it was later commuted to life imprisonment by former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1989.
Surjeet Singh, son of Sucha Singh, had completed his sentence in October last year, but was not released for want of a deportation order from the interior ministry.
Our Reporter adds from Lahore: A jail official said Surjeet Singh would be released on Thursday and handed over to Indian authorities at Wagah border.
Surjeet was arrested in 1982 on charges of spying for India. Although he was awarded the capital punishment, his death sentence was converted into a life sentence.