Zardari remits term of Indian convict
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Islamabad, Mar 27: In a diplomatic gesture ahead of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's visit to India to watch the Indo-Pak World Cup semi final, President Asif Ali Zardari today waived off the remaining sentence of an Indian prisoner who has spent 27 years in a Pakistani jail.
Indian convict Gopal Das was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 and was set to be released by the end of this year from a Lahore jail.
Zardari remitted the remaining prison term of Das "on humanitarian grounds", presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
The remission was granted on the advice of the Prime Minister to "honour an appeal of the Supreme Court of India to the government of Pakistan", he said.
A two-judge bench of the Indian Supreme Court had appealed to the Pakistan government earlier this month to remit the remaining period of Das' sentence and release him on humanitarian grounds.
The court made the appeal in response to a petition filed by Das' brother Anand Vir.
Babar noted that Indian media reports had mentioned that the Indian judges had resorted to the "unusual step" of appealing to Pakistan to consider granting remission to Das on humanitarian grounds.
He also pointed out that Justice Markandey Katju had, in his judgement, quoted a couplet by Faiz: "Qafas uddas hai yaaro sabaa se kuch to kaho, Kaheen to beher-e-khuda aaj zikr-e-yaar chale".
Das' family has said that he was arrested by Pakistani security forces when he mistakenly crossed the border in July 1984.
Reacting to Zardari's decision, Das' brother said: "We are very happy that my brother is coming back to become part of our family again. I am speechless because of the happiness. Over the years, we have been receiving messages through which we got to know about his well-being".
According to official records, Das was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1987 and was set to be released by the end of this year.
However, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, the President today remitted Das' remaining term, Babar said.
"The President signed the remission advice in the wee hours of Sunday, soon after the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was accepted and it was decided that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will proceed to Mohali to witness the semi-final cricket match between the teams of the two countries," Babar said.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 27 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 27 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
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PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
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