Islamabad: In a major breakthrough in the Indo-Pakistan relations, President Asif Ali Zardari has pardoned Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, converting his death sentence to life imprisonment.
According to the Pakistani media, the India prisoner will be released from the jail in the country following the orders.
Reports further said that the Law Ministry of Pakistan had sent proposal for the release of Sarabjit to the Interior Ministry.
Sarabjit, an Indian national, was jailed in Pakistan for as long as 22 years after he was convicted of being a spy. The decision by the Pakistani President came after the prisoner sent his fifth mercy plea seeking clemency.
Reacting to the move by the neighbouring country, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna thanked the Pakistan President for the gesture.
The decision by Zardari to grant clemency to the Indian prisoner has come after India released Dr Khaleel Chisti, jailed Pakistani scientist, from Ajmer jail on April 11.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, Pakistani President's spokesperson Farhatullah Babbar said that as Sarabjit had already completed his term in the prison, he would most possibly be released next week following clearance from the Interior Ministry.
He was sentenced to death for alleged involvement in a string of bombings in Punjab in 1990 that killed 14 people.
Sarabjit has maintained that his was a case of mistaken identity, since even the FIR was not registered in his name. "I have spent 22 years in prison for a crime I have not committed," he wrote in the petition.
The FIR had nominated Manjeet Singh for carrying out four bomb blasts in different cities of Punjab, according to the petition.
Sarabjit's lawyer said he had documentary proof that his client was in India at the time of bombings. "Manjeet Singh was indeed a terrorist but the authorities have mistaken Sarabjit for Manjeet," Sheikh said.
In his letter to the President, Maulana Bukhari of the Jama Masjid pointed out that Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur had met him personally and provided "vital evidence" which proved Sarabjit's innocence.
"Singh should be freed on humanitarian grounds, which will not only help in promoting goodwill between the two neighbours but will also result in promoting communal harmony among Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims of India," Bukhari wrote.
Sarabjit, imprisoned since 1990, was given the death sentence under Pakistan s Army Act for alleged involvement in the bomb blasts.
A mercy petition sent by him to the army chief rejected with a direction that it should be forwarded to the President.
Though Sarabjit was set to be hanged in 2008, Pakistani authorities put off his execution indefinitely after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani intervened.
His family has said he wandered across the border in an inebriated condition and that he was arrested by Pakistani authorities after being mistaken for Manjeet Singh.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)