Doctors say next 24 hours critical; visas issued to four family members; FO says best possible treatment being given, consular access provided to convicted spy
LAHORE: Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national on death row in Pakistan, who was attacked by fellow inmates, has been put on a ventilator as he fights for his life, officials said on Saturday.
Sarabjit was sentenced to death 16 years ago on espionage charges.
He was rushed to hospital on Friday with multiple wounds, including a severe head injury, after an argument in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail.
“Sarabjit’s condition is critical with multiple wounds on his head, abdomen, jaws and other body parts, and he has been put on a ventilator,” a senior doctor in Jinnah Hospital said.
Sarabjit is fighting for his life in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), and the next 24 hours are critical, the doctor said, adding that the head injury was “quite severe”.
“He needs surgery but the doctors are not performing it because they don’t want to take any chances and want him to stabilise,” he said.
Sarabjit’s lawyer Owais Sheikh said his client had received threats following the execution of Afzal Guru in India. Guru was hanged in New Delhi on February 9 for his alleged part in an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the attack on Sarabjit as a “dastardly act” and called on the government to conduct a thorough inquiry into the matter and punish the guilty persons.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the attack as a “very sad incident”, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. “It is very sad. I think in the jail, some inmates attacked him. I think that is very sad,” he said.
Sarabjit Singh’s sister, Dalbir Kaur, said Indian government officials had told her that Pakistan has granted visas for four family members to travel to Lahore and is also allowing one person to stay with him in the hospital.
Visas have been issued to Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur, wife Preet Kaur and two daughters Sopan Kaur and Ponam Kaur. They will arrive in Pakistan through the Wagah border early on Sunday morning.
Sarabjit’s sister said, “We are thankful to the Pakistan government for issuing us visas for 15 days.”
“We want to be with Sarabjit in this difficult time. He is all alone. We don’t even know what his condition is,” Kaur said in Amritsar.
Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry confirmed, in a statement, that the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has been instructed to facilitate the provision of visas to Sarabjit’s family members. He also said that “the government provided timely consular access and permitted two officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to travel to Lahore and visit the prisoner late last night”.
The FO spokesman also said the Indian prisoner was being provided the best medical treatment at the hospital. He said doctors and medical staff are working round the clock to revive the prisoner who remains unconscious and is on a ventilator.
Sarabjit was arrested following a bombing in Lahore in 1990 in which 14 people were killed. He was sentenced to death after being convicted by a court on spying charges.