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Jun 25, 2009 at 07:41pm IST

Pakistan using Sarabjit to bargain with India

Pakistan Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh's review petition challenging his death sentence in the 1990 Lahore bomb blast case. The petition was rejected by a three -member bench of Pakistan's Supreme Court on the grounds of non-pursuance of the case by his lawyer. Sarabjit's lawyer Rana Abdul Hamid was not present on Wednesday despite a directive to him. The lawyer was also absent for the last hearing on Monday.

Talking to CNN-IBN Hamid said that he would file another appeal on Sarabjit's behalf.

“I was not authorised to appear as I was appointed to the Punjab government. So I asked my friend to appear in the Supreme Court on my behalf. But he was busy. Today I have been de-notified so I can file an application in the court and appeal,” Hamid said.

With Sarabjit’s case lingering on for more than 19 years CNN-IBN’s Face The Nation debated: Is Pakistan using Sarabjit to bargain with India?

The panel of experts included former secretary to Ministry of External Affairs, KC Singh; Criminal Lawyer Majid Memon and Chairman, Center For Research and Security Studies, Islamabad Imtiaz Gul.

At the start of the show, 86 per cent of those who voted in said yes, Pakistan is using Sarabjit to bargain with India while 14 per cent disagreed.

No mercy for Sarabjit?

Majid Memon reacting to the dismissal of Sarabjit’s review petition said that there is no need to be unduly panicky in this development because it is procedure of law.

“When the learned counsel representing the party whose mercy petition is coming up for hearing is absent then the courts generally don’t dismiss but in this case as the matter came to the Pakistan Supreme Court on Monday and the counsel was absent then and was against absent on Wednesday it has been dismissed by default. It cannot be reconstituted as been rejected, so there is still a ray of hope,” explained Memon.

Highlighting an important aspect of Pakistani constitution, Memon said that after a mercy petition is disposed off by the Pakistani Supreme Court on the basis of merits even then under Article 45 of Pakistani constitution, the petitioners would be entitled to approach the head of the state i.e. the President of Pakistan.

Pressure from Jammat-ud Dawa on Sarabij’s lawyer?

There were reports from Pakistani media that Jammat-ud Dawa (Lashkar-e-Toiba front) leaders forced Sarbajit's lawyer to not attend the court.

Denying all the allegations, Imtiaz Gul said he doesn’t believe in all these rumours because the decision was based on the fact that Sarabjit’s lawyer has been absent in the court from the last two hearings.

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Is Pakistan fair to Sarabjit?

India is ensuring that Mumbai terror attacks’ accused Mohd Ajmal Kasab gets a fair trial in Mumbai. Even the first Defense Counsel appointed for Kasab’s case was removed on the lines that there could be conflict of interest. However, a complete reverse scene can be seen with Sarabjit’s case in Pakistan.

Joining the debate KC Singh said that Sarabjit’s case is a sensitive case and should not have been dealt lightly by the Defense Counsel or the Pakistani court.

Singh said that Pakistan should urgently take some remedial steps otherwise people in India will be forced to believe that there is a deliberate casualness or a deliberate attempt in the way the case has been handled.

He also added that the High Commissioner in Pakistan should have followed a sensitive case like this.

Gul objecting to Singh’s statements said that as India is ensuring that Kasab gets a fair trial in Mumbai, Pakistan has also tried to give a fair trial to Sarabjit in Lahore.

Politics over Sarabjit

Amidst all this chaos there is also a fear that by making a demand to release a convicted terrorist India can open doors to Pakistan to make similar demands.

Singh said that the only way to deal with such cases is that both the countries should ensure there is greater transparency, a greater exchange of evidences etc.

Agreeing on the same point, both Singh and Gul said that as Sarabjit has been behind the bars for 19 years he deserves a more sympathetic consideration.

Singh also said that Pakistan should not draw parallels between Kasab and Sarabjit because the kind of evidences that Mumbai Police have found against him cannot match to those in Sarabjit’s case.

He went on saying that Sarabjit was arrested at a time when the India-Pakistan relations were going through one of their worst time but now as both the countries are in talking terms it is expected that things are handled a bit differently.

Justice takes a backseat in sub continent cases?

Memom explained that Kasab’s case cannot be compared to that of Sarabjit’s because Ajmal Kasab was caught red handed in Mumbai.

Talking about Sarabjit’s case he said that if there is a Human Rights Commission in place in Pakistan than this aspect should be examined there that a person in imprisonment for more 19 years has suffered more than execution.

Memon said that it is an independent case and should be handled on its own merits and should not be compared with that of Ajmal Kasab or Afzal Guru. He emphasised that looking at his 19 years of imprisonment Sarabjit’s death sentence deserves to be commuted.

Bringing an end to the discussion, he said that it is true that diplomatic relations and personal sentiments play a role in sub continent cases but as Pakistan also has a fair judicial system India believes justice would be done to Sarabjit.

Final Web/SMS poll: Is Pakistan using Sarabjit to bargain with India?

Yes: 89 per cent

No: 11 per cent

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