Delhi/Lahore: Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit
Singh's body was brought to India after he died in a Pakistani
hospital early Thursday, succumbing to his injuries six days after
being attacked by his fellow inmates in a jail and pushing the
India-Pakistan equation to a new low.
Authorities Thursday evening started a post-mortem examination of
the body after it was brought from Lahore by a special Air India
flight to Amritsar's international airport and taken by helicopter
to his native town Bhikhiwind, 50 km from Amritsar.
The autopsy was being conducted by a team of doctors from Amritsar
Medical College in the hospital at the sub-division town of Patti,
40 km from Amritsar.
Sarabjit's family signed the papers allowing a post-mortem
examiantion to be conducted in India, saying that they had no
trust in the autopsy conducted by a medical board in Pakistan. He
will be cremated Friday afternoon in Bhikhiwind with full state
At 12.45 a.m. Pakistan time (1.15 a.m. IST), Lahore's Jinnah
Hospital announced that Sarabjit was dead, bringing an end to a
23-year saga that began on a fateful August day in 1990 when he
crossed over to Pakistan.
Following his death, the authorities in New Delhi and Punjab
announced a number of measures, including state-level honours at
his cremation, financial assistance to the family and government
jobs to both his daughters.
While Pakistan declared him a terrorist and convicted him for
blasts in Lahore and Multan that left 14 dead, his family claimed
that the devoted brother, husband and father from a poor rural
family in Punjab had strayed acros in an inebriated state when he
was just 26.
Sarabjit's family, which was in New Delhi, reached Bhikhiwind by
helicopter Thursday evening. Scores of local residents gathered at
the helipad to meet them and accompanied them to their house.
Angry residents held protests Thursday and kept the entire town
shut. Shops and educational institutions also remained closed.
Protestors gathered at various places and condemned the "cowardly"
act by Pakistani authorities which led to Sarabjit's death.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced three-day
mourning for Sarabjit and said that he would be given a
state-level funeral. He announced government jobs for Sarabjit's
two daughters and financial assistance of Rs.1 crore.
The union government also announced assistance of Rs.25 lakh to
the distraught family.
Most of his years were spent in anonymity but in death, Sarabjit -
who had been brutally assaulted with bricks and plates in Lahore's
Kot Lakhpat jail April 26 and had slipped into a deep coma -
became the latest bone of contention between the troubled
India's ministry of external affairs did not mince its words
either and said Sarabjit's death was "put simply, the killing of
our citizen while in the custody of Pakistani jail authorities".
From Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),
leaders across the political spectrum expressed deep anguish at
the untimely death of the 49-year-old.
"I am deeply saddened by the passing away of Sarabjit Singh. He
was a brave son of India who bore his tribulations with valiant
fortitude," the prime minister said, adding it is "particularly
regrettable" that the Pakistan government did not heed pleas of
the Indian government, Sarabjit's family and of civil society in
India and Pakistan to take a humanitarian view of this case.
Expressing deep shock and sorrow at Sarabjit's death, both houses
of parliament Thursday condemned the "inhuman treatment" meted out
to him in a Pakistani jail.
The identical statements was read out by Speaker Meira Kumar in
the Lok Sabha, and Chairman Hamid Ansari in the Rajya Sabha.
"The house condemns the inhuman treatment meted out to Sarabjit
Singh in a Pakistani jail and hopes the culprits will be brought
to book," said the resolution.
As a string of VIPs, including Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde
and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, went to pay their
condolences to Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur, the BJP upped the
ante and demanded that diplomatic relations with Pakistan be
"The level of diplomatic relations should be scaled down and for
the time being Indian high commissioner to Pakistan should be
called back," BJP president Rajnath Singh said.
Attacking the government on the emotive issue, others spoke out
too, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who
said: "This is the result of bad handling of the case."
But Dalbir Kaur, Sarabjit's doughty sister who waged a long and
hard battle to highlight her brother's case, asked all political
parties to come together and strengthen the government's hands.
"He was martyred for India. (Pakistan President Asif Ali) Zardari
killed him because of elections," Dalbir Kaur told reporters.
"The entire country should come together. I appeal to all parties
to strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home
Minister Sushilkumar Shinde."
Dalbir Kaur, who along with Sarabjit's wife and daughters returned
from Pakistan Wednesday claiming they were not being given
information on his condition, claimed Sarabjit had written to her
that Pakistani authorities had asked him to undergo training in
She also alleged a prominent Pakistani human rights activist had
demanded money from her to secure Sarabjit's release, and demanded
visas of all visiting Pakistani activists be cancelled.
Pakistani Punjab's caretaker Chief Minister Najam Sethi admitted
there was negligence in the case but no conspiracy or evidence to
link it to parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's hanging.
"I have not seen any evidence of this sort. I've just come in and
I've not seen the earlier files," Sethi told CNN-IBN channel in
response to a query.