Nirupama Subramanian

Another reprieve is likely

ISLAMABAD: With a decision by the Pakistan government on Sarabjit Singh’s death sentence imminent, his sister Dalbir Kaur said on Monday she was optimistic of returning to India with her brother.

The month’s reprieve that Sarabjit got after President Pervez Musharraf ordered his execution postponed by a month from April 1 is set to end on Tuesday.

Official sources said another postponement, if not an outright pardon for the condemned man, was likely and that an announcement would be made late on Monday or on Tuesday.

Proposal

Separately, the Pakistan Interior Ministry is also considering a proposal to commute all death sentences into life terms. The move would benefit not just Sarabjit, who is on death row in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, but more than 6,000 condemned prisoners.

In any case, it is unlikely that the Pakistan government can hang Sarabjit on May 1. According to prison rules, once an execution is put off, the government has to approach the courts to fix another date for the hanging. There is no confirmation that the Punjab provincial government has done this. When approached, the court fixes a fresh date for the execution that is not earlier than 14 days and not later than 21 days.

So, at the very least, Sarabjit, who was convicted by Pakistani courts on charges of terrorism and whose death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court, may get another small reprieve as a consequence of procedure.

Meanwhile, the visas on which Sarabjit’s family — including his wife Sukhpreet, two daughters, Poonam and Swapandeep, sister Dalbir Kaur, and her husband — arrived in Pakistan last week, are also due to expire on Tuesday.

But Ms. Dalbir Kaur was hopeful that the family’s application for visa extension would still be granted and that they would be able to stay on for a few more days. She was also optimistic that the government would pardon her brother and allow him to return home.

“I am quite hopeful that when I go home, it will be with my brother,” she told The Hindu.

Another meeting sought

The family has also sought another meeting with Sarabjit. At their first meeting in 18 years, Sarabjit interacted with his wife, daughters and sister from behind the bars of a cell in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore.

His family has asked the jail authorities for an “open” meeting with him, and Ms. Dalbir Kaur said that this request was being considered favourably.

“Even if we go back to India tomorrow, I am sure I’ll be back very soon to meet my brother again and take him back with me a free man,” she said.