New Delhi, May 2 (IANS) An Indian judicial panel, comprising retired judges, went to Lahore to see Sarabjit Singh in Kot Lakhpat Jail, but when they reached the Pakistani city, the Indian death row prisoner was in comatose condition in hospital and died Thursday morning, said an official.
India had launched the bilateral mechanism of the judicial committee over concerns for the safety of Sarabjit following the death of another Indian, Chamel Singh in the same jail in January, said Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.
The panel of retired judges visits jails in each other’s countries to see the condition of prisoners and jails.
“We were finally able to convince the Pakistani authorities to accept the visit of the judicial committee, but by the time the panel reached Lahore, Sarabjit Singh was in hospital,” said Akbaruddin.
He said India had raised the issue of safety and security of Indian prisoners “in the context of the judicial committee, and that is the mechanism we have”.
India and Pakistan exchange lists of prisoners on Jan 1 and July 1 of every year, and there are 215 Indian fishermen and other 55 Indian nationals in Pakistani prisons “according to the list Pakistan provided”, he said.
To a question if Sarabjit Singh, who was brain dead, had been taken off the ventilator, Akbaruddin said: “All of us were trying to ensure that an Indian citizen’s life is saved and this issue was never raised.”
Asked on India’s stand on the conviction of Sarabjit Singh, the spokesperson said India has raised his case at every level with the Pakistani authorities since 2005.
“And if we didn’t think this was a case deserving of humanitarian and sympathetic considerations, we wouldn’t have raised it even at the level of the prime minister of India in 2005. Since then we have raised it at all levels… and if we had considered him guilty, we would not have pursued his case ever.”
Sarabjit Singh was brutally attacked by fellow prisoners in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail on April 26 after which he slipped into a comatose condition. He had been on death row after being convicted by Pakistani courts for bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan that left 14 people dead.
A special aircraft that left for Pakistan to bring back the body of Sarabjit Singh, arrived in Amritsar late Thursday evening.
Akbaruddin had said India was “doing everything possible to ensure the body comes back as early as possible”, adding that Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has spoken to his Pakistani counterpart on the issue.
The Indian government was even planning to ask if Indian doctors could get to see Sarabjit Singh to assess his health condition.
India is waiting to see the report of a judicial probe that Pakistan has set up in the Sarabjit case.
Following persistent efforts by India at all levels, the Pakistani authorities began to provide medical bulletins twice a day at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. and also provide consular access, it is learnt.
Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal met Najam Sethi, the caretaker chief minister of Pakistan Punjab to arrange for the return of the body.