Protest: Demonstrators demanding the release of Sarabjeet Singh in Punjab
INDIAN national Sarabjeet Singh, who was attacked by fellow inmates armed with bricks has been put on a ventilator as he fights for his life, officials said on Saturday (April 27).
Sarabjit Singh’s sister, Dalbir Kaur, said Indian government officials had told her that Pakistan has granted visas for four family members to travel to Lahore and is also allowing one person to stay with him in the hospital.
“We want to be with Sarabjit in this difficult time. He is all alone. We don’t even know what his condition is,” Kaur said in Amritsar.
Four members of Singh’s family - his wife, two daughters and his sister - were set to travel to Pakistan on Sunday (April 28) after being granted 15-day visas.
Singh, who was sentenced to death 16 years ago on espionage charges, was rushed to hospital on Friday (April 26) with multiple wounds, including a severe head injury, after an argument in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail.
“Singh’s condition is critical with multiple wounds on his head, abdomen, jaws and other body parts, and he has been put on ventilator,” a senior doctor in Lahore’s Jinnah hospital said on condition of anonymity.
Singh is fighting for his life in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), and the next 24 hours are critical, the doctor said, adding that the head injury was “quite severe”.
“He needs surgery but the doctors are not performing it because they don’t want to take any chances and want him to stabilise,” he said.
Singh was hit with bricks and other blunt objects by two inmates, a police officer investigating the case said, identifying the suspects only by single names Aamir and Mudasir.
“These inmates attacked Singh while he was doing his evening walk. We don’t exactly know at the moment the reason for the attack, but initial investigation reveals that they had exchanged hot words with Singh,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Singh’s lawyer Owais Sheikh said his client had received threats following the execution of a Kashmiri separatist in India. Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi on February 9 for his part in a deadly Islamist attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the attack on Singh as a “dastardly act” and called on the government to make a thorough inquiry into the matter and punish the guilty persons.
“The authorities have obviously failed to do their elementary duty” of providing him safety and security, the commission said in a statement.
The attack on Singh was front-page news in Indian newspapers on Saturday (April 27), with Indian television stations running frequent updates on his condition and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing it as a “very sad incident”.
Sarabjit, 49, 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.
Pakistani foreign office spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry confirmed the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi was told to provide visas to Singh’s family.
Chaudhry also said the government “permitted two officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to travel to Lahore and visit the prisoner”.
Singh was arrested following a bombing in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore in 1990 in which 14 people were killed.
He was sentenced to death after being convicted by a Pakistani court on spying charges. His family has filed mercy petitions to Pakistani authorities seeking Singh’s release.
Pakistan maintains he was an Indian spy, but Singh’s family say he is a farmer who accidentally crossed the border into Pakistan while drunk.
Pakistan last year released an Indian man who had served three decades in a Pakistani jail on espionage charges.
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