By Beena Sarwar
Imagine the mental agony and suspense faced by an ailing old man sentenced to life imprisonment after nearly 20 years of incarceration without trial, now awaiting his release following an amnesty appeal that keeps getting delayed by bureaucratic concerns.
After a long and vigorous campaign by activists in India who believe that he is innocent of the charges brought against him, there was hope that Dr Khaleel Chishty, the elderly Pakistani virologist convicted for murder by a court in Ajmer, Rajasthan, would finally be released. The campaign followed the out-of-the-box judgement by the Indian Supreme Court that urged the Pakistani government "on humanitarian grounds", accepting that the matter was out of its jurisdiction, to release Indian prisoner Gopal Dass. The judgement, highlighted by Aman ki Asha, prompted the Pakistan President to use his powers of pardon to allow Dass to return to India before completing his conviction sentence.
Unfortunately, some elements in the Indian government have not been as forthcoming, despite appeals by Indian citizens to release Dr Chishty.
After studying the circumstances in detail, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan on May 18, 2011 forwarded his recommendation for a pardon to Dr Chishty, to the Governor Rajasthan. The Governor's signature, required as a formality, was the last hurdle to Dr Chishty's freedom.
However, instead of signing as expected (and as constitutionally required), Governor Shivraj Patil (who also officiates as Governor Punjab) kept the file pending. After pressure grew following Indian Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju's much-publicised letter of June 17, 2011 to the Prime Minister appealing for Dr Chishty's release, the Governor outlined a long list of points to be clarified before he would take the 'risk' of signing the Home Ministry's recommendation.
Dismayed but not daunted by the Governor's objections, the rights organisation People's Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) Rajasthan that has been campaigning for Dr Chishty responded to the points raised by the Governor on a factual basis, while Supreme Court Senior Advocate Dr Rajeev Dhawan countered the constitutional and other legal issues raised.
"We felt that the Governor had raised unfair questions which had no material basis," says Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary PUCL Rajasthan.
The Home Secretary has now sent the file back with these replies, cleared by Attorney General of Rajasthan, to the Chief Minister, who is expected to meet the Governor when he next comes to Jaipur.
Meanwhile, Dr Chishty, grateful for the efforts to free him, continues to languish at Ajmer Prison Hospital, waiting for the day when he will be united with his family in Pakistan.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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Page 99 of 174
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
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For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
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