VHP opposes release of Pakistani prisoner



Jaipur: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has opposed the release of Pakistani prisoner Mohammad Khalil Chishty, who is serving life sentence in Ajmer jail, and has demanded that Pakistan first release Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh.

VHP supporters recently wrote a letter to Rajasthan Governor Shivraj Patil with whom the mercy plea of Chishty, 80, is pending, and opposed the move to release him.

"We have requested the governor not to release Chishty on the grounds of his age as there are scores of other prisoners languishing in jails even after completion of their terms," Govind Jadam, a VHP representative, said on Friday.

Pakistan has paid no heed to the mercy plea of Sarabjit Singh, he said.

The VHP earlier staged a demonstration at the district collector's office in Ajmer, some 130 km from state capital Jaipur.

Sarabjit Singh was convicted and awarded death sentence for his alleged involvement in the 1990 serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan that took 14 lives. Sarabjit claims that he became a victim of mistaken identity after he strayed into Pakistan from his village located on the border.

Chishty, a virologist in the Karachi Medical College, was awarded life imprisonment in January this year. After the 18-year long trial and conviction in a murder case, he moved the Rajasthan High Court against the lower court's verdict, but his bail application was turned down.

The hope for release of Chishty had emerged when Justice Markandeya Katju of the Supreme Court recently requested PM Manmohan Singh to release the Pakistani prisoner on "humanitarian grounds".

Acting on Justice Katju's appeal, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot approved the mercy plea of Chishty and sent it to the governor for final clearance.

Governor Patil is at present seeking views on Chishty's mercy plea from leading advocates and home department officials.

Speaking to media persons earlier, Chishty expressed hope that the Indian government will pay attention to his mercy plea.

"This will strengthen the relations of the two countries and the people," he said.

Some prominent non-government organizations and social activists are supporting Chishty's release.

Chishty and some others had been accused of killing a man, identified as Irshid, in a fight in April 1992. Chishty was on a visit to Ajmer for offering prayers at the world famous Dargah Shariff of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty when the killing occurred.

IANS