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Aug 11, 2011 at 04:40pm IST

India asks Pakistan to release Sarabjit

New Delhi: India on Thursday asked Pakistan to free Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national on death row who was convicted for alleged involvement in multiple blasts in Lahore and Multan in 1990, on humanitarian grounds.

"It is not our case that he was involved (in those blasts)," External Affairs Minister SM Krishna told the Rajya Sabha during question hour. "We don't share Pakistan's view of his involvement."

The minister stressed that India has taken up the matter with the Pakistani government 'very seriously'.

India asks Pakistan to release Sarabjit

SM Krishna stressed that India has taken up the matter with the Pakistani government 'very seriously'.

Members also sought details of Khaleel Chishty, an 80-year-old Pakistani doctor undergoing life imprisonment in a jail in Ajmer for murder.

Sarabjit Singh was sentenced to death September 15, 1991, on allegations that he was involved in three bomb blasts in Lahore and one in Multan. His mercy petition is pending before Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

"It is necessary for them to take a humanitarian view of the petition," Krishna said.

The issue was being pursued "with all diligence at our command", he added.

Early this month, a hearing on a petition challenging a possible presidential pardon for Sarabjit Singh was adjourned till Sep 20 by a court in Lahore.

"The government of India will do everything in its power to get the Indian national in Pakistan's custody released," the minister said.

When members sought Chishty's details, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened and said the home ministry has been instructed to seek details from the Rajasthan government on the case of the virologist from Karachi Medical College.

Chishty's mercy petition, which was cleared by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, was sent to acting Governor Shivraj Patil, who sought more details in the case.

Chishty was awarded life imprisonment in January. He and some others were accused of killing a man, identified as Irshid, in a fight in April 1992. Chishty was on a visit to Ajmer for offering prayers at Dargah Sharif of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty.

Krishna said authorities from both sides met regularly to discuss the issue of their nationals in each other's jails. "The high commissioners of India and Pakistan meet twice every year to discuss the issue of prisoners."

The government has provided an ex-gratia of Rs 300,000 to the next of kin of Indian nationals in detention in Pakistan.

There are 558 Indian nationals in custody in Pakistan, Krishna informed the upper house. Of them, 232 are civilian prisoners, 252 fishermen and 74 missing defence personnel. The missing defence personnel include 54 Prisoners of War since 1971.

"The government of Pakistan has acknowledged the presence of only 72 Indian civilian prisoners and 237 fishermen lodged in Pakistani jails. Pakistan does not acknowledge the presence of any Missing Defence Personnel in its custody," he said.

The issue of the release of Indian prisoners in Pakistan figured prominently in discussions between Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar here last month.

Krishna added that Pakistan released 454 Indian fishermen and 19 Indian civilian prisoners in 2010. So far this year, Pakistan has released 103 Indian fishermen and 12 civilian prisoners.

An India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners was formed in 2008 to make recommendations to the two governments on release of prisoners, he said, adding the committee has met four times so far.

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