Lahore/Islamabad: After battling for life for more than six days following a brutal assault by fellow inmates inside Pakistan's Kot Lakhpat Jail, Indian death row convict Sarabjit Singh died in a Lahore hospital on Thursday. His body has been shifted to the mortuary for autopsy.
"I received a call from the doctor on duty (at Jinnah Hospital) at 1 am (1:30 IST) informing me that Sarabjit is no more," Mahmood Shaukat, the head of a medical board that was supervising Sarabjit's treatment, said.
According to reports, Sarabjit was taken off the ventilator after his condition worsened towards the middle of the night. Security was beefed up around the hospital and the mortuary soon after television channels began reporting his death.
Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad said they had been informed by officials of Jinnah Hospital about Sarabjit's death.
Shaukat said authorities were yet to decide on conducting an autopsy of Sarabjit's body. Asked whether the autopsy would be done after getting permission from the government, he said: "At the moment I have no idea."
No decision had been made about handing over the body to Sarabjit's kin or to Indian authorities, he said. "These matters will be worked out according to the directions from the government," he said.
The 49-year-old Sarabjit had sustained several injuries, including a fractured skull, when six prisoners attacked him in jail on Friday afternoon. He was hit on the head with bricks and was comatose in hospital since then.
"I am sad about his death. It will affect the ties between the two countries. He will remain fighting for justice against the brutal attack on Sarabjit by jail inmates," Sarabjit's lawyer Awais Sheikh said.
"His measurements on the Glasgow Coma Scale, which indicates the levels of consciousness and damage to a person's central nervous system, had dropped to a "critical level," the sources said.
Sarabjit's heart was beating "but without brain function" because of the extensive head injuries he sustained when he was assaulted on Friday, a source said. Sarabjit was completely unresponsive and unable to breathe without ventilator support.
Even as Sarabjit's condition deteriorated, Pakistan announced that it was "positively considering" India's request to repatriate him.
Earlier, India had strongly asked Pakistan to immediately release Sarabjit for best available treatment after he slipped into a "non-reversible" coma at the Lahore hospital, saying this is not the time for invoking "legal and bureaucratic reasons".
Pakistani police has booked two death row prisoners Amer Aftab and Mudassar for the attack. They reportedly told investigators that they had attacked Sarabjit because he had allegedly carried out bomb attacks in Lahore.
No action has been taken so far against officials of the jail for failing to provide adequate security to Sarabjit.
Sarabjit's wife Sukhpreet Kaur, daughters Poonam and Swapandeep Kaur and sister Dalbir Kaur, who went to Lahore Tuesday to see him, have returned to India.
The Indian national was convicted of alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990 and spent about 22 years in Pakistani prisons. His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former president Pervez Musharraf. The previous Pakistan Peoples Party-led government put off Sarabjit's execution for an indefinite period in 2008.
Sarabjit's family says he was the victim of mistaken identity and had inadvertently strayed across the border in an inebriated state.
With Additional Inputs From PTI