Islamabad on Friday sought the evacuation of its prisoner Sanaullah who was attacked in a Jammu jail by fellow inmates this morning – to Pakistan. This demand was placed before Indian Deputy High Commissioner (DHC) Gopal Baglay who was called to the Foreign Office where Islamabad lodged a protest with New Delhi over the attack.
Soon after news broke about the attack, the Foreign Office issued a statement expressing “deep concern’’ over what Pakistan views as an “obvious retaliation” to the death of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore hospital on Thursday morning. Singh had been attacked by fellow inmates in Kot Lakhpat Jail on April 26 and succumbed to his injuries six days later.
While its mission in Delhi sought immediate consular access for its officials to meet Sanaullah, parallel efforts were made by the Foreign Office in Islamabad. Besides asking the DHC to communicate Islamabad’s request for evacuation of Sanaullah to Pakistan for treatment and to be close to his family, the Foreign Office also urged India to use available mechanisms to ensure the safety and security of prisoners.
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani also spoke to Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal in this regard. Asked about the “delay” in getting consular access, Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said it had been agreed in principle. “We are waiting for further details about the venue where consular access would be granted,” he said at the weekly press conference; adding that India was in the process of shifting Sanaullah from Jammu to Chandigarh.
As to whether Pakistan considered this a revenge attack, Mr. Chaudhry sought to draw a distinction between what happened to Singh and the attack on Sanaullah. “Sarabjit was injured as a result of a scuffle between prisoners. Sanaullah seems to be a victim of a direct assault coming in the wake of the death of Sarabjit Singh.” In fact, in all the statements put out by the Foreign Office on Singh in the past week, the attack was described as a “scuffle with prisoners.”
On whether Pakistan was satisfied with the Indian Government’s response to Islamabad’s requests regarding Sanaullah, the spokesman first cited the measures Pakistan took in Singh’s case and added: “I hope that we would receive similar positive response from the Indian side in the case of Sanaullah.” Further, he pointed out that the Indian Foreign Secretary had called up his Pakistani counterpart on Thursday to appreciate the steps taken by Pakistan for Singh.
Non-committal on whether an advisory would be issued against travelling to India in the light of hostile remarks made by certain quarters in India, Mr. Chaudhry, however, maintained that Pakistan would take up with India the decision to award Singh. He did not elaborate further but for many a Pakistani, the kind of treatment that India has accorded to Singh is akin to legitimizing terrorist attacks on Pakistan by Indians.