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Sarabjit Singh in coma, critical; family to leave for Lahore on Sunday


Jyoti Kamal,CNN-IBN
Apr 27, 2013 at 09:53pm IST

Amritsar: Indian prisoner in Pakistan Sarabjit Singh continues to be in a coma after being attacked by fellow inmates in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail. His family will be leaving for Pakistan on Sunday even as authorities there have suspended two jail officials. Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur on Saturday had said that the High Commission in Delhi has issued visa to the family and she along with his daughters Poonam, Swapandeep Kaur and the prisoner's wife Sukhpreet Kaur would be travelling to Lahore. Besides visa to four family members, she said government officials have informed her that Pakistan government has allowed one family member to stay in the Lahore hospital where Sarabjit, whose condition continues to be critical, is under treatment.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his concern over news of the murderous attack on Sarabjit with India sending two diplomats to oversee arrangements. But as the death row inmate lies in a critical condition at Lahore's Jinnah hospital, he is unaware of the support he has recieved. Condemning the attack, Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh said, "Our deputy high commissioner has lodged a protest with the Pakistan Foreign Office. We want an explanation as to how it happened. Our government tried its best to get him freed. We condemn the incident. It is Pakistan's responsibility to ensure Indians in their jails are safe."

ALSO SEE Sarabjit's family gets visa, India asks Pak to explain attack on him

Doctors say his condition remains critical and no tests or surgery can be performed for his severe head injuries until he stabilises. Under pressure from New Delhi, Pakistan agreed to issue visas for Sarabjit Singh's family, allowing them to cross over at Wagah near Amritsar on Sunday.

The police on Saturday registered a case of attempted murder against two prisoners for brutally assaulting Indian national Sarabjit Singh, who was in a "deep coma" in a hospital in Lahore. Official sources said the FIR against prisoners Amer Aftab and Mudassar was registered following a complaint from Assistant Superintendent Ishtiaq Ahmed Gill of Kot Lakhpath Jail. The two men were booked under sections 324 (attempted murder) and 334 (causing severe injuries) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

ALSO SEE PM says attack on Sarabjit 'very sad'; two prisoners booked in Pak

Getting a visa to see 49-year-old Sarabjit is only one part of the family's ordeal. They want a full enquiry into the security lapse and see Sarabjit, who has been seperated from them for twenty years back home.

While that return journey is a long way away, the police say they are investigating how a high profile prisoner like Sarabjit could have been attacked. They have filed charges against two men they say carried out the attack and have posted a heavy security cordon around the hospital.

ALSO SEE Sarabjit Singh in 'deep coma', surgery delayed

But Pakistani authorities face many unanswered questions - why have they only charged two men, when witnesses and the injuries point to more people involved? How were prisoners able to get access to Sarabjit, in such a high security prison, and procure sticks, bricks and blades? Why wasn't there a guard securing Sarabjit when threats had increased from JuD and extremist groups? If his injuries were so severe, why wasn't Sarabjit moved to this hospital immediately, rather than hours later?

A protestor in Delhi while demanding justice for Sarabjit said, "We demand that a high-level team of doctors should go to Pakistan in addition to a high-level enquiry into the attack on Sarabjit Singh so that facts are revealed. This was a conspiracy to kill Sarabjit Singh in which they have meted out inhuman treatment to him. This was well planned by Pakistan."

ALSO SEE Sarabjit's ex-inmate says attack on him is a conspiracy by Pakistan govt

The biggest question remains was the attack on Sarabjit Singh, whose case was taken up by Indian leaders in many bilateral meetings, part of a bigger and more well-planned conspiracy to kill him?

The attack on Sarabjit occurred when the victim and other prisoners were brought out of their cells for an hour-long break. The prisoners allegedly assaulted Sarabjit with blunt objects. The attack on Sarabjit, an Indian on death row for carrying out a bomb attack in Lahore in 1990, didn't come without warning. In 2012, he faced threats from groups including Hafiz Saeed's JuD after the release of fellow prisoner Surjit Singh.

ALSO SEE Modi targets Centre over attack on Sarabjit in Pakistan

In the aftermath of the Afzal Guru hanging, the threat to Sarabjit'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.

"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," his sister Dalbir Kaur 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.

With Additional Inputs from Agencies

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