Pak govt considers reprieve for death-row prisoners

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Islamabad, Apr 25 (UNI) Death-row prisoners are likely to get a reprieve with the Pakistan government actively considering a proposal to convert capital punishment into life imprisonment.

''A summary prepared by the Interior Ministry is at an advanced stage and the final decision is expected within a few days,'' local media reports stated today.

A major beneficiary of the new move could be Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who was convicted of carrying out four bomb blasts in different cities of Pakistan's Punjab province in the 1990s which left 14 people dead.

His execution had been set for April 1 after the rejection of his appeals by courts and a mercy petition by the President. Later, President Pervez Musharraf delayed his execution for a month after receiving a fresh appeal from India.

Indian government and his family had separately filed clemency appeals with the Pakistan government.

Sarabjit's wife Sukhpreet Kaur, daughters Swapandeep and Poonam, his sister and her husband Baldev Singh have been in Pakistan for the past few days to lobby with government officials and politicians to help secure his release.

The proposal on commuting the death penalties to life sentences is lying with President Musharraf.

Pakistan is ranked second in the world by Amnesty International for the number of convicts facing death. It has over 7000 prisoners on death row in different jails of the country.

Executions have increased over the years. Last year saw 134 executions, compared to 83 in 2006, 52 in 2005, 21 in 2004 and 18 in 2003.

Pakistan People's Party has traditionally been soft on the issue of death sentences. Executions during two tenures of the PPP were rare. PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto had pardoned a number of convicts in 1988.

UNI XC SYU BST1519

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