Burney returns to Pakistan with Sarabjit in mind

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Amritsar, Apr 15: Winding up his 14-day visit to India, Pakistan Human Rights activist Ansar Burney today returned to Pakistan with the promise to save the condemned Indian prisoner, Sarabjit Singh from the gallows of Kot Lakhpat jail in the neighbouring country. ''I will try my best to get the death sentence converted to life imprisonment as Sarabjit has already spent 18 years in jail'', Mr Burney said before crossing into Pakistan along with his wife and son through the Wagah-Attari border.

However the immediate task for Pakistan's former Human Rights minister would be to move a special mercy petition before President Pervez Musharraf to defer the death sentence for another three months on humanitarian grounds. He also plans to meet Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani on this issue immediately as Sarabjit can be hanged on any day after April 30, when the month long extension granted to him comes to an end.

''I am no one to decide whether Sarabjit is innocent or guilty'', he said while reiterating that he does not support any form of terrorist activity whether it is committed on this side of the border or the other. Sarabjit's family members have given certain documents to Mr Burney in support of their claim that he had inadvertently crossed the border and was by no means a terrorist.

Regarding the rejection of visas of Sarabjit's wife, daughters, sister and brother-in-law by the Pakistan High Commission, Mr Burney said he would take up the matter with his government. '' I am hopeful that the family would be able to visit Pakistan and meet Sarabjit,'' he added.

Referring to his meeting with Sarabjit's family at the beginning of his visit, Mr Burney said they planned to visit Pakistan and meet the next of kin of those who perished in 1990s Lahore bomb explosion , allegedly engineered by Sarabjit Singh, for which he was sentenced to death after a trial in the early 1990s. ''I would request the Pakistan government to extend the death sentence by another three months so that Sarabjit's family members can meet the families of the victims,'' he added.

Regarding his tour to India, the Human Rights activist said, ''I am moved by the love and affection I received here.'' He was here on the invitation of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who personally wanted to thank Mr Burney for getting another Indian prisoner, Kashmir Singh of Hoshiarpur district released after 35 years in detention in a Pakistan jail.

''The world is changing, the Berlin Wall no longer exists, then why can't the artifical barriers between India and Pakistan be demolished and the restrictions lifted,'' he wondered as he bade adieu to those who had come to see him off.

''Insha Allah, phir mile gein (By god's grace we will meet again),'' he said to mediapersons as he crossed the Radcliffe Line at the Attari-Wagah checkpost.


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