Burney appeals to CJI for Chishti release

Leading rights activist Ansar Burney has appealed to the Chief Justice of India`s SC to direct authorities to release Pak national Khalil Chishti.

Islamabad: Leading rights activist Ansar Burney has appealed to the Chief Justice of India`s Supreme Court to direct authorities to release Pakistani national Khalil Chishti, saying it would be a "good gesture for peace".

In a letter to the Chief Justice, Burney said an order to release Chishti, an 81-year-old Pakistani national who has been detained in Rajasthan for 18 years, "would be a good gesture for peace in the region" and to improve relations between India and Pakistan.

He called for the release of the ailing octogenarian in the "greater interest of human dignity, justice and peace".

Burney, who briefly served as Human Rights Minister in a
caretaker government before the 2008 general election, has
campaigned for the release of Indian and Pakistan prisoners
held in jails of the two countries.

"It is so tragic and I am very much afraid that Chishti
may not come out alive if he continues (to be in India) as at
present he is of above 81 years of age.

"He is immobilised and unable to walk and also has
fractured his left hip and is showing symptoms of palsy, as
well as being a heart patient," Burney said in his letter.

Burney pointed out that Chishti`s trial on charges of
alleged involvement in a murder had dragged on for 18 years.
He said both countries continued to treat "each other`s
nationals as enemies" and this was "very painful".

"This is the reason I am writing before this honourable
court to get justice not for a Pakistani national but for an
innocent human being," Burney said.

Chishti, a former professor of virology and microbiology,
was arrested in March 1992 on charges of alleged involvement
in a murder in Ajmer while he was visiting his relatives in

A trial court in Ajmer convicted and sentenced Chishti
and other accused to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs

An appeal for the suspension of the sentence filed by
Chishti in the Rajasthan High Court was rejected on the ground
that he was a Pakistani national and "no leniency" could be
shown in his case.

Burney noted that Chishti had never violated the terms of
his bail.

He further pointed out that the Indian Jail Manual
states that the Superintendent of a jail can determine if a
convict who, due to old age or illness, is permanently
incapable of committing a crime similar to that for which he
was convicted.

In such cases, he wrote, officials can
recommend the release of the convict.

Burney said his NGO would be ready to give any surety,
bail or guarantee for the release of Chishti. The NGO is also
ready to pay any compensation to the family of the man who was
murdered, he said.