External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Thursday misunderstood a question regarding detention of an octogenarian Pakistan citizen in an Indian jail by responding that the government had taken up the case with Islamabad, leading to intervention by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The gaffe occurred after Shivanand Tiwari (Janata Dal-United) asked a supplementary to a question of Indians in Pakistani jails and sought to know steps being taken in the case of an elderly person in Ajmer jail, a case in which the Prime Minister had shown interest.

In his response, Mr. Krishna said this “particular person'' whom he later identified as Dr. Chishty, is detained in Pakistan. He said during the recent visit of Pakistan Foreign Minister to India, in general both sides talked about these questions.

The External Affairs Minister continued to state that the question needs to be considered by the Government of Pakistan on humanitarian grounds since the detained person is confined to a wheelchair and is 80 plus.

Mr. Krishna said he was sure that the Government of Pakistan would take a lenient view about “this particular case'' and added that New Delhi would pursue it at the level of High Commissioner.

He then went on to state the 2008 India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners arrangement, which last met during April this year, where all such cases do come up and the government would see that the case mentioned by the member is pursued.

Brinda Karat (CPI-M) pointed out that the Minister had actually misunderstood the question and was talking about someone else when it should refer to Dr. [Mohammed Khalil] Chishty who is locked up in India.

At this time, Dr. Singh, who was present in the House since on Thursday questions pertaining to the Prime Minister's Office are taken up, intervened to state that Dr. Chishty is serving a prison sentence in Rajasthan and on receiving a request he had contacted the Home Minister, who in turn has been corresponding with the Rajasthan government and “further results are yet to be received.''

Dr. Chishty was sentenced in December 1992 for life in a murder case while he was on a visit to India to see his mother. Spotlight was turned on the issue when the Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju made a personal appeal to the Prime Minister seeking his release on humanitarian grounds since the prisoner was a heart patient with a hip fracture.

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