Pakistan, India ties strained over ‘spy’s death’ in prison
ISLAMABAD / NEW DELHI
Members of the Indian Sikh community attend a special prayer for the good health of death row prisoner Singh in Kolkata in this April photo. Singg died yesterday after being attacked by prisoners.An Indian man on death row in Pakistan for spying died yesterday nearly a week after he was attacked by fellow prisoners, who were swiftly charged with murder as New Delhi demanded justice.
Sarabjit Singh, who was sentenced 16 years ago over deadly bombings, died in the early hours as a result of the savage assault in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail. The 49-year-old went into a coma after suffering numerous serious injuries when six prisoners attacked him on April 26, hitting him on the head with bricks and fracturing his skull.
“The criminals responsible for the barbaric and murderous attack on Sarabjit Singh must be brought to justice,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on his official Twitter page.
Diplomats denied access
India complained that its diplomats were denied access to the prisoner as he fought for his life, and the premier said it was “particularly regrettable” that Pakistan had not responded to appeals “to take a humanitarian view of this case.” The prime minister added that New Delhi would make the necessary arrangements to bring his body home for funeral rites, after earlier negotiations to treat the jailed spy in India or a third country failed. India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also said that relations between India and Pakistan “have been hurt by this terrible tragedy.”
Pakistan insists regular consular access was granted to Singh and said doctors did everything possible to save him before his death from cardiac arrest.
Singh was convicted for his alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Pakistan’s Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990. His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former President Pervez Musharraf. His family insisted he was a farmer who became a victim of mistaken identity after inadvertently straying across the border while drunk.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the attack as a “dastardly act” and called on the government to punish those responsible. “The authorities have obviously failed to do their elementary duty” of keeping him safe, the commission said in a statement.
Two prisoners were taken into custody immediately after the attack and have now been charged with his murder. The motive was unclear, but Pakistani police say an initial investigation pointed to an exchange of “hot words” with Singh. Sheikh said his client had received threats following the execution of a Kashmiri separatist in India.
Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi in February for his part in a deadly attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001.
Pakistani analysts doubted the death would have a significant impact on tense relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, nuclear-armed neighbors.
“It may increase tension for a while as the hawks in India could put pressure on the Indian Congress (ruling party) to criticize Pakistan for lack of security,” retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood told Agence France-Presse.