Sarabjit ‘clinically dead’, family likely to return home

Lahore/Amritsar, April 30 (IANS) The distraught family of Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who was brutally assaulted in a Lahore jail last week, is likely to return home Wednesday after doctors have reportedly indicated that he was “clinically dead”.

A judicial panel comprising Indian and Pakistani jurists visited Sarabjit Singh in Jinnah Hospital in Lahore Tuesday evening, the external affairs ministry said.

Raj Kumar Verka, vice chairman of the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes, said in Amritsar Tuesday that he spoke to Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur who told him that doctors have told her that Sarabjit was “brain dead”.

“I think that Sarabjit had died earlier. Why did the Pakistan government have to do this drama (of allowing the family to visit him in Lahore) when he was already gone? They sought her permission to remove him from the ventilator,” Verka, who was instrumental in securing visas for four members of Sarabjit’s family from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi Saturday, told media.

Sarabjit’s lawyer Awais Sheikh told a news channel from Lahore that Sarabjit’s sister had expressed the family’s desire to return to India.

“After the doctors told her about Sarabjit’s condition, she first told me that they wanted to go back today (Tuesday). But later, in their hotel, they said that they will go back tomorrow (Wednesday) morning,” Sheikh told the channel.

Sarabjit Singh, 49, was admitted to a Lahore hospital in a critical condition after a vicious attack on him by fellow prisoners at the Kot Lakhpat Jail April 26. He has been on ventilator support ever since.

India Monday appealed to Pakistan for Sarabjit’s release even while a medical board in Pakistan said that he would continue to get treatment in Pakistan and not shifted out.

The ministry of external affairs in New Delhi had asked Pakistan to take a “sympathetic and humanitarian” view on Sarabjit.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Tuesday he was feeling “extremely shattered and sad” over the Sarabjit’s condition and “my concern is about his life and can only pray he comes through this and survives and we are able to continue our struggle to get him back home. He has suffered enough,” he told NDTV news channel.

He said India had “offered medical assistance, offered to receive him in India for treatment” but it was dependent on the decision of the Pakistani medical board.

Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj accused the government of not dealing with Islamabad “firmly” over the issue.

“Whatever happened with Sarabjit in Pakistan, India has not talked as firmly with them (Pakistan government) as we should have,” she said .

Dalbir Kaur, Sarabjit’s wife Sukhpreet Kaur and daughters Swapandeep and Poonam, crossed from the Attari-Wagah border checkpost into Pakistan Sunday afternoon to visit him in a Lahore hospital.

He has been on death row in Pakistan since 1990 after being convicted by Pakistani courts for bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan, which left 14 people dead.

Sarabjit’s family claims he is innocent, and that he crossed over to Pakistan in August 1990 in an inebriated state and was arrested there.

Police in Pakistan, however, claimed that Sarabjit Singh, known there as Manjit Singh, was involved in terrorist strikes.

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