Katju On Releasing Sarabjit
Can you please convey the following letter to your revered father, Dr. Khalil Chishty, and ask him to deliver it tomorrow to the Pakistan Minister who will meet him in Karachi when he reaches there from Delhi with the request that it be conveyed to the Pakistan President Mr Zardari?
His Excellency the President of Pakistan
Mr. Asif Zardari
(Through Dr. Khalil Chishty)
You must have received my earlier letters sent through the Pakistan High Commissioner to India as well as Mr. Ansar Burney appealing to you to release Sarabjit Singh and send him back to India.
Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national, has been on death row in a Pakistani jail for 21 years. He was implicated in the Lahore bomb blast case of 1990 in which 14 persons died. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, and ever since he has been languishing in jail.
I have read some details of his case, and with due respect to the verdict of the Court I have reservations about its correctness. The principal witness Shaukat Salim, later retracted his statement and said it was given under police pressure. The other evidence was of Sarabjit’s alleged confession, but everyone knows how confessions are obtained in our countries (by third degree methods). At any event 21 years in death row with a damocles sword hanging over one’s head is enough to drive anyone mad. Is this punishment (even assuming he was guilty) not enough?
My own guess is that he had entered Pakistan for doing some illegal business( he said it was for doing illegal trade in liquor), and not for any terrorist activity, but the unfortunate atmosphere in both our countries is that we regard each others people like devils. It is high time that this unfounded impression be dispelled in both our countries.
Your Excellency was kind enough to honour my appeal in the case of Gopal Das and release him, and the Indian Supreme Court recently allowed Dr. Chishty to go back to Pakistan.
I there fore appeal to you in the name of humanity to release Sarabjit Singh and send him back to India. His sister and daughter met me recently in Delhi, and I promised them that I will do all I can in this connection.
In my earlier letters to you I had quoted Portia’s speech in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice about the quality of mercy. I conclude this letter with a sher of my favourite Urdu poet Faiz:
Qafas udas hai yaaron saba se kuch to kaho
Kaheen to beher-e-khuda aaj zikr-e-yaar chale
Justice Markandey Katju
(former Judge of the Indian Supreme Court and presently Chairman,Press Council of India)