By Sabena Siddiqui

Sarabjit Singh was an Indian national imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat jail, Pakistan since 1990. He was convicted by Pakistani authorities for his involvement in 1990 serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Faisalabad that killed 14 people. Sarabjit entered Pakistan from Wagha border and was caught escaping from Qasur, a border town that leads to India through Ganda Singhwala.

Sarabjit claimed that he was a farmer and a victim of mistaken identity, who strayed into Pakistan while he was drunk from his village located on the border.

He was sentenced to death in 1991, but his hanging was repeatedly postponed. Sarabjit maintained that he had served twenty-two years of prison term for a crime he is not guilty of. On 26 June 2012, it was reported that Pakistan’s President had ordered his release after the petition was filed on 28 May 2012.5 hours later this pardon was revoked and it was claimed that another prisoner, Surjeet Singh, was released not Sarabjit. ‘Indian spy’ Surjeet Singh was handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border after being imprisoned in Pakistan for 30 years.

As soon as Singh landed in India after his release, he proudly admitted that he went to Pakistan for spying, whereas he denied he was a spy while he was in Pakistan Pakistani media had originally reported that the person being released was Sarabjit Singh. Sarabjit Singh died after being attacked with bricks by other inmates in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail last Friday.

Sarabjit family crossing back to India after visiting him

Sarabjit Singh was attacked as he and other prisoners were brought out of their cells for a one-hour break. Two inmates were charged with attempted murder .In recent years, several Indians returning from Pakistani jails have admitted to spying.

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Some have criticised India’s government for abandoning them. If the Indian government felt Sarabjit had an unfair trial and sentence , it should have made its concerns known .Instead , everything has become seemingly controversial on the Indian side .

It was a prison brawl and nothing else and Indian media set about exaggerating it Indian media is always hyper ,dramatic and borders on filmi statements and jingoism .Some forces in India are trying to get political mileage out of this to stop improvement in Indo – Pak ties .

If India is a democracy it should respect human rights too , a similar and parallel incident happened only last year on 8th June , 2012 , terror suspect Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui, 27, was found murdered inside the high security Yerawada Jail of Pune , India He was strangled, allegedly after a heated brawl with two other inmates.

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Pakistani media remained criminally silent over Qateel,s murder in India unlike their counterparts in India which truly makes one wonder which country they serve . A vast dichotomy and contrast exists when one considers apparent loyalties of Indian and Pakistani media to their respective countries .

On a BBC World show yesterday , myself and Mansoor Ali Khan , anchor of Geo news exchanged views with two Indian participants .Mansoor started very sedately discussing how the issue was sidelined due to election campaigning in Pakistan.

In my turn , I mentioned the similar matter of Qateel Siddiqui last year and I mentioned the fact that Sarabjit was a convicted terrorist and spy .Before this , other participants had not discussed that he was a terrorist or not .

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Mansoor commented that at Geo , they have been told not to call him a terrorist but a spy as ‘terrorist ‘ was too severe a word for Sarabjit. The producer Jill McGivering immediately asked him who told him that for which we got no clear answer. Obviously Geo TV has its own agenda and some foreign governing board decides its media stance , truly appalling .

After this , an Indian participant went haywire that he was amazed at my conviction that Sarabjit was a terrorist and murderer , and obviously I wasn’t to be blamed as all Indo – Pak discussions lack rationale. Pakistanis are expected to tone it down while Indians can go ballistic, it seems.

India, as usual, never handed over Qateel’s body and buried it silently in the night as it did with Afzal Guru ,Maqbool Butt and others. India never informs the families about deaths or burials .

Pakistan handed over Sarabjit,s body to India which gave him a ‘state funeral ‘ and declared him a ‘national martyr ‘ and have him a 21 gun salute. Pakistan also gave full access to Sarabjit,s family by issuing them visas in no time and then they were accommodated in Avari Hotel, the most expensive place in Lahore by Pakistan government no matter what India does to Pakistani prisoners.

When people die in prisons because of brawls, do any country’s media turn it into a full-fledged diplomatic argument? Investigations and autopsies are done, an inquest is held but country to country mudslinging is simply not done.

Today, in Indian occupied Jammu at Kot Bhalwal jail, 54-year-old Sanaullah was hit with bricks
by a former soldier convicted for murder, said jail officials. The assault took place when the inmates were gardening.

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Pakistan feels the attack is retaliation for the case of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh and requests Sanaullah be repatriated immediately and consular access be provided. There are nearly 535 Indian prisoners (including 483 fishermen) in Pakistani jails and a total of 270 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Sabena Siddiqui is a Lawyer and a social activist, observer at large. She has been doing welfare work in Karachi with a great commitment and courage.[/author_info] [/author]