Sarabjit Singh's family celebrates stay on his execution

Sarabjit Singh's family celebrates stay on his executionAmritsar, May 3 : The beleaguered family members of Sarabjit Singh, the Indian national on death row in Pakistan for the last 17 years, erupted in ecstasy in Amritsar after the Pakistani Government deferred Singh's execution.

The Pakistani government deferred the execution of Sarabjit Singh who was condemned to death for spying and carrying out bombings in 1990, the External Affairs Ministry said on Saturday.

Last week, Sarabjit Singh's family visited Pakistan to campaign for his pardon. Besides meeting officials and human rights activists, they saw Singh for the first time in 18 years in a prison in Lahore.

The family mounted a campaign seeking his release ever since Kashmir Singh another prisoner on death row was released recently.

In March, Pakistan freed Kashmir Singh, who had spent 35 years on death row in a Pakistani jail on spying charges.

Meanwhile, the announcement on the stay on Sarabjit's execution came only two days after Singh's family returned from Pakistan after meeting him in the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore, Pakistan.

“I am very sure that now there will be no further delay in Sarabjit Singh's release. Soon the day will come when Sarabjit returns to his country, reunites with his family and is part of the festivities. This is the biggest day for all his well wishers who have continuously prayed for him with tears in their eyes. We were just waiting for this good news. And now we are overjoyed and I want to congratulate and thank all his well wishers," said Dalbir Kaur, Singh's sister.

His daughters Swapandeep and Poonam danced with joy and burst crackers.

“As soon as we received this news we called up all our relatives and informed them. Several relatives called us up congratulated us after watching the news on television. There is an atmosphere of festivity in our house since morning. We went to pray in the Gurudwara to thank god and then we also burst crackers,” said Swapandeep.

President Pervez Musharraf had earlier rejected his mercy plea in March, but deferred his execution by hanging until April 30 after a request from the Indian government.

A Pakistan foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said that implementation on the order of Singh's hanging has been stopped temporarily.

He said the government would take a decision on the issue after consulting various Ministries.

Incidentally, the stay on Sarabjit's execution came prior to India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Pakistan on May 21.

Sarabjit Singh was sentenced to death in 1991 for spying and carrying out bomb blasts in Lahore that killed 14 people, but his family said he was innocent and had crossed the border into Pakistan accidentally in 1990 while he was drunk.

Pakistani officials said Singh was arrested while trying to slip back into India after the bomb blasts. (ANI)