In yet another faux pas, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today got confused about an octogenarian Pakistani doctor lodged in Ajmer jail, saying the Government of Pakistan must consider his release on humanitarian grounds.
Krishna's strange answer during the Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha led to an intervention by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who clarified the matters.
Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) had asked as to what the government was doing for the release of the wheel chair-bound Dr Mohammad Khalil Chisti, a virologist who was sentenced to life imprisonment in December last in a 1992 murder case while he was on a visit to India to see his ailing mother.
Krishna responded during the Question Hour by stating that this "particular person" was detained in Pakistan and it was a question to be considered by the government of that country on "humanitarian grounds".
As puzzled members looked on, the minister went on to say that Dr Chisti was confined to a wheel chair and was more than 80 years old, and he was sure that the Government of Pakistan would take a lenient view about the case. "We will, certainly pursue this at the level of the High Commissioner," he added.
At this, surprised Opposition members asked which prisoner Krishna was referring to. CPI(M)'s Brinda Karat said that the minister had misunderstood the question and that he was talking about somebody else.
Amidst noisy interruptions from Opposition benches, the Prime Minister got up to state that Dr Chisti was serving a prison sentence in Rajasthan.
When he had received a request for his release he had contacted the Home Minister who has been in correspondence with the Rajasthan Government, Singh said, adding that "further results are yet to be received".
At one point, as several Opposition members made interruptions, Chairman Hamid Ansari ordered that nothing should go on record.
After the Prime Minister's intervention, the Chairman said that the position has been clarified and proceeded with the next question.
Dr Chisti's case hit the headlines recently when Supreme Court judge Markandeya Katju had made a personal appeal to the Prime Minister seeking his release on humanitarian grounds saying that he was a heart patient with a hip fracture.
"It will be a disgrace for our country if he (Chishti) dies in jail...If a pardon is granted it will enhance the prestige of India," the judge had said.
Krishna has been in the news for wrong reasons earlier too, the most recent instance being last week in the Lok Sabha where he appeared absent-minded when called upon to make a statement on Sri Lanka. He had later served a legal notice on the PTI for reporting that he appeared absent-minded.
Earlier in February, the External Affairs Minister had read out the speech of the Portuguese representative at the United Nations.
Speaking at the United Nations Security Council during a debate on security and development, Krishna read out the wrong speech for about three minutes before being corrected by India's envoy to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri.
Later, sources close to the External Affairs Minister said "Krishna said Pakistan government instead of Rajasthan government....Three times he used the word Pakistan instead of Rajasthan. Chisty is lodged in Rajasthan jail and he (the minister) has spoken to the Governor of Rajasthan to look into the issue and have him released."
Another Faux Pas by 'Absent Minded' Krishna
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