Khurshid assures support to family of Sarabjit Singh
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday assured the family of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian citizen on death row in Pakistan, that the Indian Government would press Pakistan to extend mercy on humanitarian grounds.
Singh's sister Dalbir Kaur and daughter Swapandeep, met Khurshid in New Delhi, where the minister assured them that he would ask Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to take up the issue with former Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who is scheduled to visit India later this week.
"We met Mr. Salman Khurshid today, and we spoke to him at length about points of the case that he did not know previously. He has assured us that the government is talking to Pakistan about the issue, and that there should be a positive result. He said that he would speak to Rehman Malik and our Interior Minister about the matter. We are hopeful that my father will be released soon," Swapandeep said.
Dalbir Kaur said that Khurshid had also assured that he would try and facilitate a meeting of the family with Malik.
"I am hoping to meet him (Malik) on the 15th. I will submit to him the 300,000 signatures we got as part of our campaign. Mr. Khursheed has assured me that all efforts will be made to facilitate a meeting," Kaur said.
Khurshid said that Singh and his family had built a strong case for his release, and said that recent events such as the execution of 2008 Mumbai attacks convict Ajmal Kasab must not influence the case at hand.
"We have flagged it and tried to explain how this is different from any other issue that may have arisen. We should not be linking this with any other issue. We are convinced that there is a good case. He has made out a case of mistaken identity," he said.
Sarabjit Singh was sentenced to death in 1991 for spying and bombing that killed 14 people. His family said he was innocent and had crossed the border into Pakistan accidently in 1990 while he was drunk.
Khurshid said that given the long years Singh had spent in prison, there were arguments in favour of clemency being shown to the prisoner.
"We have certainly urged the government of Pakistan, and I believe there are people in Pakistan who have advocated that there should be mercy in this case. Let us just hope for the best," he said.
Pakistani officials said Singh was arrested while trying to slip back into India after the bomb blasts.
The government suspended his death sentence in 2008 after his family visited Pakistan and appealed for a pardon. But a three-member bench upheld the sentence, saying they had no reason to reconsider the original sentence.