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Apr 28, 2013 at 05:41pm IST

Pakistan denies consular access to Sarabjit Singh, family reaches Lahore hospital

Amritsar/Islamabad: Pakistan on Sunday denied access to consular officials to Indian death row convict Sarabjit Singh, who is in a coma after being attacked by fellow inmates in a Lahore jail, saying the permission granted on Friday was only for a single visit. The Indian High Commission, whose two officials visited Sarabjit on Saturday, has lodged a protest against Pakistan's decision.

The Indian High Commission has taken up the issue with Pakistan, saying the officials should be allowed unhindered access to Sarabjit in view of his condition, sources said. "The matter has been taken up with the Pakistani side and the Foreign Office has been requested to give us regular

consular access to Sarabjit Singh," said an official of the Indian High Commission. Talks are on between the two sides on the issue.

The 49-year-old Indian prisoner was admitted to state-run Jinnah Hospital on Friday after he was attacked by at least six other inmates within his barrack at Kot Lakhpat Jail. Sources said he was hit on the head with bricks and his face and torso was cut with weapons fashioned from spoons and pieces of ghee tins. He is currently in a "deep coma" and has been put on ventilator support.

Meanwhile, the family of Sarabjit has crossed over to Pakistan to visit him in the hospital. Led by Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur, his wife Sukhpreet Kaur and daughters Swapandeep and Poonam crossed the Attari-Wagah joint check post on their way to Lahore, some 20 km from the international border between India and Pakistan. The family offered prayers at the Golden Temple on Sunday morning before leaving for Pakistan. They were granted 15 days 'gratis visa' by the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi on Saturday.

The family members of Sarabjit were received by the Indian High Commission officials in Lahore. "We will know about my father's health condition only when we meet him. I hope he regains his consciousness when we meet him," said Sarabjit's daughter.

"I'm slightly nervous as I'm getting ready to meet him. I hope he is well. I will inform the government and the people of India of his condition," said the Indian prisoner's sister on her arrival in Lahore.

The family has alleged that the Lahore jail authorities might be involved in the attack. "This (attack on Sarabjit) is not possible without the involvement of the jail authorities," said the Indian prisoner's sister Dalbir Kaur. "Pakistan should take immediate action against the perpetrators of the attack on Sarabjit," she added.

Sarabjit was convicted for alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Punjab province in Pakistan, that killed 14 people in 1990. His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former President Pervez Musharraf. His family says he is a victim of mistaken identity and had inadvertently strayed across the border.

Government's reaction

The government has said it is in regular touch with Pakistan on Sarabjit's condition. "We are in touch with the Pakistan government," said Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

Earlier, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari and Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid said India was ready to help Pakistan in providing medical assistance to Sarabjit.

"We are extremely worried about the condition of Sarabjit, we have been trying for his release. We are in touch with Pakistan to provide better treatment to him," said Tewari.

(With additional information from PTI)

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