Sarabjit critical; family pleads for help, prays (Intro Roundup)

Lahore/Amritsar, April 28 (IANS) With doctors in a Lahore hospital describing as “slim” the chances of survival of badly beaten up Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, his hapless family Sunday pleaded for help from the Indian government, which said it would do everything it could to bring him home.

Sarabjit’s family arrived in Lahore city of Pakistan from Amritsar Sunday afternoon to be with him. After meeting him at the Jinnah Hospital, the family pleaded that he be allowed to be taken back to India or any other country immediately for treatment.

“When we met him in the ICU, he was just lying there. Doctors told us that his condition was critical. Please help us to save my brother’s life,” Sarabjit’s elder sister Dalbir Kaur said in Lahore. She is accompanied by his wife Sukhpreet Kaur, and two daughters, Swapandeep and Poonam.

“His daughters called him out ‘Papa’. His wife called out to him. But he lay there like a stone. I could not understand what to say,” said Dalbir Kaur.

“I plead to our government with folded hands. Please take him to any country for his treatment. Don’t waste time, save him. So far, when I tried to fight for his freedom, I only got hollow assurances,” she said.

Doctors at the hospital said that Sarabjit’s condition was “critical” and “chances of his survival are slim”.

India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur responded later in the evening, promisonng all help.

“I think at the moment the first priority is to stabilize him. I don’t suppose you could really move him in this stage. But we can certainly do everything we can. We have done it in the past and the matter has been taken up at every level,” Preneet Kaur told NDTV news channel.

She said the government has always brought up the topic of Sarabjit at every level with Pakistan to let him come home on humanitarian grounds.

Sarabjit, 49, suffered critical head injuries in the assault by four to five prisoners with bricks and prison plates in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore Friday. He has been in Pakistan prisons for over 22 years.

“I want to know how the iron rods, bricks, cutters and other things reached inside the prison to carry out the attack on Sarabjit. It was a big conspiracy,” Dalbir Kaur said. Sarabjit’s lawyer in Pakistan, Awais Shiekh, also alleged that Sarabjit was attacked under a conspiracy.

“Singh was diagnosed on Saturday with 3/15 Glasgow coma scale (GCS); that elaborates upon his critical state,” one of the doctors treating him told the Dawn.

The doctor said the GCS was a neurological scale aimed at assessing level of consciousness after profound head injury and the reading of 3/15 indicated deep unconsciousness.

The doctor, who was not named, told the Dawn that Sarabjit had suffered a critical bone fracture when he was taken to the Jinnah Hospital’s surgical emergency Friday evening.

During clinical assessment, it was established that Sarabjit had diffused brain injury over a widespread area of his head that led to unconsciousness.

Doctors said that surgical intervention cannot be carried out till Sarabjit’s condition improves.

Sarabjit is being kept in a separate intensive care unit in unprecedented police security and no one is being allowed to see him except doctors.

First Secretary in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad C.S. Das visited the hospital too.

Before crossing over to Pakistan from the Attari-Wagah checkpost on the international border, 30 km from Amritsar, Sarabjit’s family offered prayers at Harmandir Sahib, the holiest of Sikh shrines in Amritsar, popularly known as the Golden Temple, Sunday morning.

“We are going there with lots of hopes. We want to bring him back hale and hearty. His condition is such that there is some fear in our hearts. We have offered prayers to the almighty to help him recover fast,” said Dalbir Kaur.

In New Delhi, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes summoned officials of the ministries of external affairs and home over the issue of helping Sarabjit. It also directed the government to send a team of specialist Indian doctors to Pakistan for Sarabjit’s treatment, commission vice chairman Raj Kumar Verka said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sunday accused the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of failing to ensure safety of Sarabjit and demanded that he be immediately brought back to India for treatment.

“There has been inaction on the part of the Indian government in Sarabjit Singh’s case. Despite being given information by his family that he might be attacked and was threatened in jail, the Indian government remained silent and did not ensure his security,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

A leading Pakistani daily, News International said Sunday that the Sarabjit incident was a “sad one”.

In Mumbai, the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) also sought a high-level independent probe into the attack on Sarabjit.

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

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