Dr Khalil Chishty: bail granted
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Delhi and Ajmer last weekend brought hope,not just for India-Pakistan relations but also for the Pakistani prisoner Dr Khalil Chishty.
Human rights activists, journalists and political activists worked behind the scenes in both countries to ensure that Mr Zardari was briefed on the case of the ailing Pakistani virologist convicted to life imprisonment after 19 years of being under-trial and under house arrest. As a result, Mr Zardari brought up the matter informally during his lunch meeting on Sunday with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Their meeting is believed to have given fresh impetus to the case.
On Monday April 9, the Supreme Court of India granted bail to Dr Chishty in response to an appeal filed by his lawyers. The court also gave Dr Chishty's lawyers leave to file for permission to visit Pakistan and also to reside at Delhi till the disposal of the appeal.
"A jailor told me that we will have to send Dr Chishty back....," said film producer Mahesh Bhatt, who is among the prominent Indians campaigning for Dr Chishty's release, commenting during a talk show on NDTV. "The question is whether we send him back alive or dead, in a body bag. The choice is up us in the land of the Mahatama."
Mr Bhatt recalled that Pakistan had released the Indian prisoner Gopal Das following an appeal from the Indian Supreme Court, and stressed that India should show similar large heartedness.
The People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), India, which has been at the forefront of the campaign to free Dr Chishty, has in a press statement appreciated the Supreme Court orders, but points out that the bail, while "an extremely significant step... is not sufficient as bail for Dr Chishty as seen earlier when the trial was underway for 19 years, was like house arrest."
PUCL also reminds readers that the Indian Constitution provides an executive remedy for the issue, as the President or the Governor of a State may grant mercy "to an individual at any stage of the judicial process". This remedy has been continuously "stalled by the Governor of Rajasthan, who despite being recommended twice by the Chief Minister of Rajasthan that Dr Chishty be pardoned, the Governor only let the file gather dust."
"We take this opportunity in the interest of justice as well as strengthening further the relationships between the two countries and urge the Governor Sh. Shivraj Patil to sign the Mercy Petition," urges PUCL.
Dr Chishty's son is expected to arrive in India on April 14, 2012, to pursue the case. Across both sides of the border, people are praying for the elderly virologist to be allowed to return to Pakistan - alive.
- Beena Sarwar
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
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