Sarabjit still critical, kin seek Pakistan visa

Amritsar/Lahore, April 27 (IANS) The condition of Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, admitted to a Lahore hospital after being brutally assaulted by fellow inmates, continued to be critical Saturday, even as his family demanded Pakistani visas to visit him.

Sarabjit Singh is in a coma, He is being treatment for head injuries in Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital. He was brutally beaten with bricks and plates by fellow prisoners in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison Friday.

A separate room has been temporarily converted into an ICU for Sarabjit Singh’s treatment.

Sarabjit Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur, who has been spearheading the campaign for his release from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison, and his wife and two daughters, arrived here Saturday morning from their hometown Bhikiwind, 50 km from Amritsar.

The family members met Raj Kumar Verka, vice chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, to demand that their request for visas to Pakistan be submitted with the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

“We want to be with Sarabjit in this difficult time. He is all alone. We don’t even know what his condition is. We are getting reports only through news channels and his lawyer,” Dalbir Kaur told IANS.

Dalbir Kaur herself had taken ill Saturday morning while meeting Verka, and had to be examined by a doctor after she complained of uneasiness and chest pain.

“She has high blood pressure (110/160), chest pain and breathing difficulty. I have advised her rest. We are monitoring her health,” the doctor treating her said.

Sarabjit’s family members, including his wife Sukhpreet Kaur and daughters Poonam and Swapandeep, were with Kaur.

In Lahore, authorities set up a medical board to treat Sarabjit Singh, a media report said.

“A high-powered medical board has been constituted to treat the patient,” Mahmood Shaukat, the principal of Allama Iqbal Medical College, told Dawn.

Shaukat said Sarabjit’s condition was “critical”.

The police in Lahore have registered a case of attempt to murder against two prisoners, Aamir and Mudassar, who viciously attacked him, a media report said.

Shocked by the murderous assault on Sarabjit, a sobbing Dalbir Kaur alleged that Sarabjit had apprehended such an attack, and he had earlier received threats from fellow prisoners.

“Some prisoners had been threatening him. It was a conspiracy, he was deliberately attacked. Why was he not protected… I want to go to Pakistan immediately,” she said.

“If our government had taken steps (earlier), this attack would not have taken place. I had met the home minister (Sushilkumar Shinde), (minister of state for external affairs) Preneet Kaur and all others with letters mentioning that Sarabjit Singh could be attacked. No one did anything, and now the attack has taken place,” she said.

Pakistan human rights activist Ansar Burney, who has been pleading for clemency to Sarabjit Singh, said to a news channel from Karachi: “The attack looks suspicious. Someone could be behind this. No bricks or other material can reach the place where Sarabjit had been kept. This must be thoroughly investigated”.

Officials of the Indian High Commission arrived in Lahore, 50 km from here, to know about Sarabjit’s condition.

Sarabjit Singh 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, having inadvertently crossed into Pakistan in August 1990 in an inebriated state, only to be arrested there.

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

In Sarabjit’s hometown Bhikiwind, and in Amritsar and Patiala, people have been gathering to protest the vicious attack.

The assault on Sarabjit Singh comes a few months after the death of Indian prisoner Chamel Singh in the same Kot Lakhpat jail, after he was allegedly assaulted by jail staff.

Chamel Singh, in his 60s, was serving a five-year term for espionage and died at the Jinnah Hospital Jan 15.

During an autopsy done on March 13 — nearly two months after his death — marks of injury had reportedly been found on the body.

The body of Chamel Singh was returned by Pakistan last month.

His family alleged he was killed in the prison, but no probe was carried out by Pakistani authorities.

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