A Pakistani court has sought a report from the interior ministry in response to a petition seeking the release of Indian national Sarabjit Singh, currently on death row following his conviction for alleged involvement in bomb attacks in 1990.
Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik of the Lahore high court on Monday asked the interior ministry to file a reply by March 16, failing which the court would decide the matter on merit.
Sarabjit's counsel Awais Sheikh had submitted the petition seeking the inclusion of his client in a list of foreigners languishing in Pakistani jails despite having served their sentences.
Sheikh had asked the court to issue directions in this respect to the foreign secretary and the superintendent of Kot Lakhpat Jail, where Sarabjit is being held.
The prison superintendent had earlier informed the court that though Sarabjit's prison term had expired a year ago, his fate would be decided in the light of directions from the general headquarters of the Pakistan Army and the presidency.
The superintendent said he had written four times to the inspectorate of prisons and the home department of Punjab province, seeking guidance on the issue in the light of directions from the general headquarters.
Sarabjit, imprisoned since 1990, was given the death sentence under the Army Act for alleged involvement in four bomb blasts that killed 14 people. He submitted a mercy petition to the army chief, but it was rejected with a direction that it should be forwarded to the president.
The superintendent said, "Singh's sentence expired on October 30, 2010, and in the light of the general headquarters' directions his mercy petition was referred to the president but there has been no progress on the plea so far."
Though Sarabjit was set to be hanged in 2008, Pakistani authorities put off his execution indefinitely after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani intervened in the matter.