The story of ... Sarabjit Singh...
Sarabjit Singh is an Indian national imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat jail, Pakistan since 1990. He was convicted by the Pakistani authorities for his involvement in 1990 serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Faisalabad that killed 14 people. Sarabjit claimed that he was a farmer and a victim of mistaken identity, who strayed into Pakistan from his village located on the border, three months after the bombings when drunk.
He was sentenced to death in 1991, but his hanging has been repeatedly postponed. So far five mercy petitions have been filed on his behalf, in which Sarabjit maintains that he has served twenty two years of prison term for a crime he is not guilty of. On 26 June 2012, it was reported that Pakistan's President had ordered his release after the petition was filed on 28 May 2012. Five hours later this pardon was revoked and it was claimed that another prisoner Surjeet Singh was released not Sarabjit.
On the night of 28 August 1990, Sarabjit was arrested by Pakistani border guards in an inebriated state on the Indo-Pakistani border near Kasur. Sarabjit and his supporters maintain that the arrest was a case of mistaken identity, and that he was only a poor farmer who was drunk and had strayed off the border. His wife Sukhpreet Kaur claims that he left to plough his fields near theWagah Border on August 28, 1990, but never returned
He was arrested on the charges of illegally crossing the India-Pakistan border. But after eight days, the Pakistani police charged him with being involved in the 1990 terror blasts at Faislabad andLahore. The authorities alleged that he was Manjit Singh and had been responsible for the 4 blasts which killed 14 people, and had been arrested while returning to India after carrying out the bombings. He was accused of working for the Indian intelligence and was viewed as a terrorist in Pakistan. He was convicted of spying and carrying the bomb blasts and was handed the death penalty.
In 1991 Sarabjit was given the death sentence under the Pakistan's Army Act.] His sentence was upheld by the High Court and later by the Pakistan Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dismissed his petition to review his death sentence in March 2006 as Sarabjit's lawyers failed to appear for the hearing. Sarabjit said that his appeal had been dismissed by the Pakistan Supreme Court for non-prosecution only because of lack of interest by his former lawyer. On 3 March 2008, the erstwhile President Pervez Musharraf rejected his mercy petition.
On June 26, 2012, the President of Pakistan decided to release Sarabjit but a few hours later, amidst condemnation by the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamaat-ud-Da’wah clarified that the prisoner to be released was Surjeet Singh and not Sarabjit.
On 26 April 2008, the key witness Shaukat Salim .. retracted his statement. Salim's father and other relatives had been killed in the attack. In court Salim had provided testimony that Sarabjit was the one who had planted the bomb but later on accepted that he had done so under pressure from the Pakistani police. However Sarabjit's lawyer Abdul Rana Hamid has said that Salim's statements have no legal standing as they were never recorded in court.
Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney has claimed that none of the four FIRs lodged with regard to the bombings contained Sarabjit’s name or his description, and that Sarabjit had been arrested on the night of 30 August 1990, from the Kasur border for illegally crossing the Indo-Pakistani border. But after eight days, the police implicated him in the terrorist bombings. He had not been arrested red handed. Burney also pointed out that the same magistrate had recorded the statements of the witnesses in all the four terror blast cases, out of which one had taken place at Faisalabad and the remaining three at Lahore, although the police cases had been lodged in four different police stations and two different districts. He said four different magistrates should have recorded the statements. None of the statements recorded in front of the magistrate were taken under oath. Sarabjit had been paraded before the witnessed in the absence of the magistrate, and the police had informed the witnesses that he was the culprit. This was also confirmed by Shaukat Salim, a key prosecution witness in the case.
A British lawyer Jas Uppal campaigning for his release pointed to several loopholes in the trial. According to her
• His identity was never verified or proved in court and no forensic evidence was provided at his trial to link him to the bomb attacks.
• The trial was conducted in English, whereas Sarabjit does not speak or understand English, and an interpreter was not provided.
• There were other serious questions over the fairness of his trial, including allegations that he was tortured in custody and forced to confess"
• The trial was fast-tracked and the main witness repeatedly changed his version of events.
Since his conviction in 1991, several mercy petitions have been filed by Sarabjit's legal representatives.
The fifth petition was filed on 28 May 2012, along with 100,000 signatures collected from India. It urges Pakistan to reciprocate the Indian decision to release Pakistani octogenarian virologist Khaleel Chishty on humanitarian grounds. But so far the mercy pettion has not been approved by Pakistan.
In March 2008, Sarabjit's family went to Pakistan when his hanging was to be carried out. They met several prominent Pakistani politicians including the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to appeal for his release. Sharif said,"After seeing the plight of the members of Sarabjit's family who have come to Pakistan, any person can feel the pain they are going through."
On 23 August 2005, the Sarabjit's case was taken up in both the houses of the Indian Parliament, where the government was asked to take necessary action for his release.
Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh took up Sarabjit Singh’s case with the Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan and urged him to convey Delhi’s hope that Islamabad would treat the matter as a humanitarian issue.
In June 2012, the Bollywood actor Salman Khan came forward to seek the support from people and the media for the release of Sarabjit. He started an online petition from his NGO Being Human in support of Sarabjit's release.[
In 2009, the British lawyer Jas Uppal started an online campaign "freesarabjitsingh.com" ]to highlight his case and request human rights group to intervene on his behalf. Awaish Sheikh, Sarabjit's present lawyer from Pakistan, has been supporting the campaign and has provided his services free of charge to Sarabjit.
The Bollywood actor and activist Raza Murad has also been campaigning for his release. Until June 2012 he had collected 138,226 signatures to support Sarabjit's release. After a flip-flop by the Pakistani government regarding his release in June 2012, he intensified his 'Free Sarabjit' campaign .
In April 2008, a group of Pakistani students organized a march, seeking withdrawal of all official moves to pardon Sarabjit. In December 2012, an aggressive protest against Sarabjit Singh was observed in front of the Lahore Press Club, in which Indian flags were burnt by Islamists radicals.
On 26 June 2012, both Pakistani and International media reported President Asif Ali Zardari signed a document sent by the interior ministry of Pakistan commuting Sarabjit's death sentence to life in prison. A life sentence in Pakistan is generally for 14 years, and Sarabjit, having spent 22 years in jail was to be shortly released. The news of his pardon and imminent release initiated celebrations in his hometown. The Indian foreign minister also issued a statement of appreciation to Islamabad for the gesture.
Five hours later, however, the Pakistani Government agencies issued a statement denying the reports and holding the media responsible for the confusion. They announced that the release order had in fact been for another prisoner, Surjeet Singh, who was pardoned in 1989. Sarabjit's family condemned the incident as a deliberate and cruel joke.
Sarabjit Singh has filed a fresh mercy appeal to the President of Pakistan on the 65th independence day of that country.
On 26 April 2013 at about 4:30 pm, he was attacked in the Central Jail Lahore (Kot Lakhpat jail). allegedly by six prisoners with bricks, sharp metal sheets, iron rods and blades. He was admitted to the Jinnah hospital with severe head injuries in a critical condition. Pakistani doctors on Tuesday refuted reports that Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh may be brain dead, while maintaining that he continues to remain critical in a Lahore hospital.
Confirming the development, the head of the medical board constituted by Pakistan to monitor Sarabjit Singh’s health said, “His condition continues to be serious but he has not been declared brain dead.”
The clarification from the Pakistan medical board came in the wake of reports that Sarabjit Singh may be brain dead and he is being sustained by life support system.....