JUBAIL, SAUDI ARABIA: Other than Labour Day, the subcontinent might remember May 1 from another perspective from now on, with the tragic death of Sarabjit Singh. It is a sad day for Sarabjit’s family and millions of people on both sides of the border, wishing for a better relationship between India and Pakistan. It is, however, a day of jubilation for right-wing, religious extremists in both countries.
Sarabjit was arrested by Pakistani authorities in an intoxicated state on August 28, 1990; eight days later, he was charged with involvement in the 1990 blasts in Faisalabad and Lahore and was later sentenced to death. His petition against the death sentence was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2006 due to the non-appearance of his lawyer. Later, his mercy petition was also rejected by the government.
On April 26, Sarabjit was attacked by fellow prisoners with bricks and iron rods in the presence of jail guards. He then went into a coma due to severe head injuries. His family arrived in Pakistan and appealed a deathbed-ridden Sarabjit be sent abroad for treatment. However, the government rejected any such move citing medical board reports that all was well with him and he could be treated in Pakistan. On May 1, his family left Pakistan in distress, accusing the government, the jail and hospital authorities of being insensitive and heartless towards his condition. The same evening, he died while in a coma.
Who will benefit from his death? Those who are inciting Pakistanis that this was revenge for Ajmal Kasab’s hanging, and also those who do not want a peaceful relationship between the neighbours. What about the hundreds of fishermen and visa violators imprisoned in both countries — who will save them from reprisal and revenge attacks?
Indeed, it’s a shameful day — shameful for those who didn’t release him even after 22 years of imprisonment, for those who organised the attack on him, for those whose medical report said all was okay with Sarabjit, and the media which miserably failed to highlight the distress of his family.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2013.