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Apr 27, 2013 at 09:27am IST

Pak: Sarabjit Singh critical, family says authorities ignored threats

Lahore: Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh is critical after being attacked on Friday by fellow inmates inside a Lahore jail in Pakistan and has been admitted to the ICU with severe head injuries. His family says he received many threats but, Pakistani authorities did not pay heed.

There is tight security outside Lahore's Jinnah Hospital where Sarabjit is being treated. But it comes too late to protect Sarabjit from being attacked inside the prison, despite several warnings and now Sarabjit Singh, the Indian on Pakistani death row is battling for his life.

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The attack on Sarabjit, an Indian on death row for carrying out a bomb attack in Lahore in 1990, didn't come without warning. Last year, he faced threats from groups including Hafiz Saeed's JuD after the release of fellow prisoner Surjit Singh.

In the aftermath of the Afzal Guru hanging, the threat to Sarbjit's life increased. His family says Sarabjit faced direct threats from guards, which they reported. Fingers point to a possible conspiracy, given that he was attacked just as he was being sent to a more secure cell. "We told authorities, but no one listened to us," said Sarabjit's relative.

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"Sarabjit sent me letters through his lawyer, saying that he was being threatened. He said that people told him that he was alive when Afzal was executed in India, so we are going to attack you. I told the Home Minister and the External Affairs Minister about the situation. I want to go to Pakistan tomorrow morning. I want a visa as soon as possible," his sister Dalbir Kaur said.

The Indian High Commission has sent two officers to oversee Sarbjit Singh's medical care and say they would like the Pakistani government to issue visas to his family in Jalandhar to visit him. "The High Commission has directly been in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs and other senior functionaries in the Pakistan government to have access to Sarabjit at the earliest. We're also planning to dispatch two councillors from the High Commission of India," MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

Human rights activist Ansar Burney, who plans to head to Lahore to meet Sabarjit, has raised serious concerns saying it was a suspicious attack. The Bharatiya Janata Party has sought an explanation from the government as to why no heed was paid to sarabjit's family's complaints. "Indian government has to explain why nothing was done even after the family wrote to them that Sarabjit is being threatened in the Pakistani jail," BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

In the past few years Indian leaders have pleaded with Pakistan to release Sarbjit, who claims he is innocent, on humanitarian grounds. "We have been requesting Pakistan to set Sarabjit free on humanitarian grounds. If the Pakistan government cannot keep him safe in the premises of a jail it is extremely unfortunate," Congress leader Rashid Alvi said. Given that they can't secure his safety, the big question is whether Pakistan will now reconsider India's plea and return Sarbjit home.