Islamabad, June 27 (IANS) Hours after reports emerged that Pakistan was to free Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, Islamabad Tuesday night clarified that another Indian prisoner named Surjeet Singh, who has been in jail for three decades, would be released instead.
"I think there is some confusion. First, it is not a case of pardon. More importantly, it is not Sarabjit. It is Surjeet Singh, son of Sucha Singh. His death sentence was commuted in 1989 by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on the advice of then prime minister Benazir Bhutto," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar was quoted as saying by Geo News.
Law Minister Farooq Naek Tuesday conveyed to the interior ministry that Surjeet Singh had completed his life term in jail and ought to be released and sent back to India, Babar said.
Keeping him in jail any longer will be illegal confinement, he said.
Any references to President Asif Ali Zardari in the entire matter were "out of context", the presidential spokesman said.
Surjeet Singh, currently being held in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore, has been in Pakistani captivity for over 30 years. He was captured near the border with India on charges of spying during the era of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.
Earlier in the day, media reports said Zardari had converted Sarabjit Singh's death sentence to life imprisonment and directed authorities to release him if he had completed his prison term.
Sarabjit Singh's family claim he had crossed into Pakistan inadvertently in August 1990 in an inebriated state and was arrested there.
But Pakistani police say Sarabjit Singh, who is known as Manjit Singh there, was involved in acts of terrorism. A resident of Bhikhiwind township along the border, Sarabjit has been languishing in Pakistani jails since then.
He was convicted of staging four bombings in Lahore and Multan in 1990 that killed at least 14 people.