After Pak U-turn, India renews appeal for Sarabjit’s release
NEW DELHI: Stung by Pakistan’s farcical volte-face over the release of Sarabjit Singh, a more circumspect Indian government on Wednesday urged Pakistan to release the prisoner who is serving a death sentence and has been in its custody for over two decades.
While refusing to speculate on what happened on Tuesday night, foreign minister S M Krishna requested Pakistan to take a more humanitarian view of Sarabjit’s case even as he welcomed the move to release Surjeet Singh.
The Pakistani media was given to understand by authorities there on Tuesday that Sarabjit was being released, only to do a U-turn late later the night when they disclosed that it was actually another prisoner, Surjeet Singh, who was being freed. The Indian government was caught in a bind as it had already bought media reports that Sarabjit had been granted presidential pardon.
“As you are aware, the government of India has consistently urged the government of Pakistan, on several occasions, to take a sympathetic and humanitarian view in the case of Shri Sarabjit Singh and we renew our request to release him,” Krishna said.
Surjeet is Sarabjit’s fellow inmate at Kot Lakhpat jail. He was arrested by Pakistan over 30 years ago on charges of spying. Surjeet had already served his sentence and there was no question of a presidential pardon for him.
“I also appeal to the government of Pakistan to release all Indian nationals who have completed their prison terms and request the release of all other Indians who are serving jail sentences in Pakistani prisons for petty crimes,” Krishna added.
Responding to the development, home minister P Chidambaram said India would continue to press for Sarabjit’s release. Islamabad on Wednesday released 314 Indian fishermen who were held for straying into Pakistan’s territorial waters.
Talking about terrorism and India’s re-engagement with Pakistan after 26/11, Krishna said “abundant patience and perseverance” were required in dealing with Pakistan. “While dealing with Pakistan, we need to be cautious. We need to have abundance of patience and perseverance,” he said. To a question on when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would visit Pakistan, Krishna said there was no such move in the near future.
He said there were many elements in Pakistan who used terrorism as an “instrument to achieve short-term and long-term objectives” and it was too early to judge whether the “trust deficit” had been reduced, an aspect required to be monitored on a continuous basis.
Referring to the talks between foreign secretaries here on July 4-5, Krishna made it clear that terrorism would be the focus of the meeting. “Whenever there is a bilateral meeting, we have always focused on terrorism and terror-related issues. We have been impressing upon Pakistan to come out openly to declare war on terrorism which should be across the board and not selective,” the minister added.
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