Burney on a mission to prove Sarabjit's innocence

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Amritsar, Apr 2: The battle to save the Indian prisoner, Sarabit Singh, who is on a death row in Kot Lakhtpat jail near Lahore, has entered the final phase with his 'messiah', in the form of Pakistan human rights activist, Ansar Burney today declaring that he would not allow an innocent to be hanged.

"I have a heart and cannot see an innocent being condemned, whether he is on this side of the border or the other side", he said as he crossed the Radcliffe Line on the Attari-Wagah border along with his wife, son and a family friend. "I shed no tears for those who indulge in terrorist activities, whether in India or Pakistan", he said at a media conference here while indicating that he had come here with a mission of "love and compassion".

Mr Burney indicated that he was here to collect evidence of Sarabjit's 'innocence' and not to find out whether his was a case of mistaken identity. In this context, he refered to the claim of the condemned prisoner's family that Sarabjit was not the same person who had been identified as Manjit Singh by the law enforcing agencies across the border and accused of having carried out series of bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan in the early 1990's.

"Even if a person is a terrorist, his family should not be allowed to undergo suffering", he said while indicating that if Sarabjit was innocent he would leave no stone unturned to save him from the gallows.

"All my life I have been fighting to unite 'missing' persons with their families, whether it was the case of Kashmir Singh or any other", he said while referring to his chance meeting with Kashmir Singh in Kot Lakhpat jail. It was due to the efforts of Mr Burney, who was then a Federal Minister for Human Rights that Kashmir Singh returned home after 35 long years.

Mr Burney said that he would have to go through the evidence collected by Sarabjit's family to take up his case of clemency with Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf. ''After all, the courts on the bases of evidence have proved his involvement in the bomb blast cases,'' he added before heading for Bhikiwind town where he will meet the condemned prisoners family member.

The human rights activist indicated that Sarabjit's case was a complex one, considering the nature of Indo-Pak relations. In this context he referred to his efforts in getting Kashmir Singh released and the comments of the media thereafter. " I was referred to as Sardar Ansar Burney Singh", he pointed out.

He was of the firm view that prisoners on either side of the border who had completed their jail terms should be immediately released and sent home.

"I have met families in Pakistan who are suffering as their loved ones are in jail here", he said while pointing out that a number of such families before his departure for India.

"The world has changed, the Berlin Wall has gone, I don't see why all artifical barriers between the two neighbours cannot be demolished", he added while calling for eradicating hatred that keeps two human beings apart.

Referring to the restrictions imposed on his visit to just three cities in India, Mr Burney expressed anguish that he cannot visit Agra.

"Mine is a love marriage and I would love to visit the Taj Mahal, a symbol of love", he said while glancing at his wife.


UNI

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