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  • India condemns Sarabjit Singh’s ‘killing’
    The Indian government says Pakistan will be held accountable for the “killing” of Sarabjit Singh
    editor editor on Friday, May 3, 2013 reviews [0]
    New Delhi: The Indian government said Pakistan will be held accountable for the “killing” of Sarabjit Singh, who died just after midnight on Thursday following an attack on him in a Lahore prison, casting a pall on ties between the South Asian neighbours.
    Singh had been sentenced to death in Pakistan over terrorism charges related to a bomb attack in that country in 1990. Singh’s family has maintained that he was picked up by security forces in Pakistan after inadvertantly straying over the border.
    The Indian government had been seeking his release from Pakistan over the past few years. Ties between the neighbours look set to worsen after seeminly being on the mend in the last two years.
    “Simply put, it’s the killing of an Indian national in Pakistani custody,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. He demanded that Singh’s body be handed over to his family in India for the conduct of last rites.
    Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid said the incident would be a barrier to strengthening people-to-people ties between India and Pakistan. He hoped the death would create a better understanding of the humanitarian situation involved in such cases.
    “It’s a terrible paychological and emotional setback to all of us and, I believe, to what we have been trying to do,” Khurshid told reporters on the sidelines of a regional conference on trade and economic cooperation in South Asia.
    “Governments can sometimes disagree... but long-lasting relationships have to be between people... That is the relationship that has been hurt by this terrible tragedy,” he said.
    “I hope that this terrible event will contribute something to the understanding of the human element of hostility between our two countries,” Khurshid said.
    Singh was supposedly attacked by fellow inmates on 26 April and was in a critical condition in Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital.
    Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said Pakistan would be held accountable for not preventing the death.
    “An Indian has been murdered in cold blood in Pakistan custody. Pakistan accounts for his death,” Tewari said.
    The Indian government had told the Pakistani government that a humanitarian view was needed to be taken on Sarabjit Singh, Tewari said, adding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken up the issue with the then president of Pakistan in 2005.
    What happened to Sarabjit Singh was “extremely inhuman, barbaric and no civilized state treats prisoners like this,” Tewari said.
    He said the government will do everything within its command to see that Singh’s body was returned and appealed for political unity over the issue. “We hope to rise above party politics,” he said.
    Political tensions have been rising within India over corruption allegations and apparent government intervention in the investigations of these.
    Pakistan insisted that regular consular access had been granted to Singh and that doctors did everything possible to save him before his death from cardiac arrest, AFP reported.
    “The prisoner, who had been in a comatose state and on a ventilator for the last few days, was being provided the best treatment available and the medical staff at Jinnah Hospital had been working round the clock... to save his life,” the Pakistan foreign ministry said.
    The government provided “all assistance” to Singh’s family and the Indian authorities, and will facilitate “the early completion of all formalities” and hand over his body “at the earliest possible” time, it added in a statement.
    Sarabjit Singh’s lawyer Owais Sheikh said his body had been moved to the hospital mortuary. The doctor said arrangements were under way for an autopsy.
    Two prisoners were taken into custody immediately after the attack and have now been charged with his murder, police official Tariq Mehmood told AFP.
    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 neighbours, AFP said.
    “It may increase tension for a while as the hawks in India could put pressure on the Congress (ruling party) to criticize Pakistan for lack of security,” retired lieutenant general Talat Masood told AFP.
    “I think if Pakistan hands over the body to his family, it will be helpful in calming the situation and will surely be viewed as a good gesture.”

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