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Mariana Baabar
Sunday, April 28, 2013
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan for the first time officially commented on the deplorable and unacceptable attack on an Indian death-row prisoner Sarabjeet Singh, saying he suffered head injuries at Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore, as result of a scuffle between prisoners which rendered him unconscious.

 

Sarabjeet Singh’s wife Sukhpreet Kaur, his two daughters Swapandeep Kaur and Poonam together with his elder sister Dalbit Kaur will be reaching Lahore by road through Attari-Wagah border on Sunday.

 

The Human Rights Commission has meanwhile sent a warning both to the governments in Islamabad and Lahore that they should be well aware that incidents such as these have adverse affects on bilateral relations.

 

The attackers were also prisoners on death row and questions are being asked as to how they had easy access to objects which caused grievous injuries to Singh.

 

A few months ago another Indian prisoner Chamel Singh was also attacked by inmates and eventually lost his life in the same prison, with the postmortem report saying that it was a heart attack. After unbelievable apathy by jail authorities the government did not help either as it took three months before it handed the body of Chamel Singh to his relatives.

 

Sarabjeet Singh was on death row after he was charged for spying.

 

This murderous attack came at a time when for the first time contacts (since the LOC skirmishes between India and Pakistan) resumed, with a visit of two retired Indian judges, KS Gill and MA Khan who will visit Kot Lakhpat Jail where Singh was attacked.

 

The two judges are part of the India-Pakistan Joint Judicial Committee of Prisoners and will meet up with Indian prisoners in Pakistan along with their Pakistani counterparts. Singh is fighting for his life and presently breathing through a ventilator, too ill to be operated upon.

 

“Pakistan has been very forthcoming on humanitarian grounds and has issued consular access in record time for Indian diplomats, who will visit the prisoner”, spokesman at Foreign Office told The News around midnight after which two unidentified Indian diplomats left for Lahore.

 

A statement from the Foreign Office said that Singh was immediately evacuated to Jinnah Hospital, Lahore where he was provided emergency medical assistance.

 

Doctors and medical staff at the hospital are working round the clock to revive the prisoner who remains unconscious and on a ventilator.

 

The spokesman said that the medical staff of the Jinnah Hospital as well as officials of the government of Punjab present there were obliging in providing all assistance to the Indian High Commission officials and updated them on the medical condition of Sarabjeet Singh.

 

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also instructed its High Commission in New Delhi to facilitate provision of visas to family members of Sarabjeet Singh who may wish to visit him during his hospitalization”, added the spokesman.

 

AFP reported that Singh’s lawyer Owais Sheikh said that his client had received threats following the execution of a Kashmiri separatist in India. Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi.

 

The PTI reporting from Lahore said that “police today registered a case of attempted murder against two prisoners for brutally assaulting Indian national Sarabjeet Singh, who was in a “deep coma” in a hospital here. FIR against prisoners Amer Aftab and Mudassar was registered following a complaint from Assistant Superintendent Ishtiaq Ahmed Gill of Kot Lakhpat Jail.

 

The two men were booked under sections 324 (attempted murder) and 334 (causing severe injuries) of the Pakistan Penal Code.”

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the attack saying in a statement that the government should hold inquiries into the ‘latest horror story’.

 

“A prisoner is wholly dependent for his safety on the keepers of the prison and, regardless of his offence; he is entitled to due protection against violence by wardens or fellow detainees. In this case, the authorities have obviously failed to do their elementary duty.

 

The authorities should have also realized the adverse effects on relations with India if an Indian prisoner falls victim to any foul play, to say nothing of murderous attacks on him. These cases also reveal the dangerous consequences of the growth of intolerance in Pakistani society which will cause the people of this land more harm than anyone else”, said the statement.