The death of Sarabjit Singh due to injuries inflicted by fellow prisoners in the Kot Lakhpat jail, Lahore, is unfortunate and condemnable. We do not know whether he actually committed the crime he was accused of. It might be a case of mistaken identity. But as far as Pakistanis are concerned, Sarabjit was to them what Ajmal Kasab was to us. He was a foreign national sentenced to death for carrying out terror activities in Pakistan — an ‘enemy of the state.’ But still he was not hanged in secrecy; his relatives were allowed to visit him when he was seriously injured; and Pakistan has handed over his body to his family.
The manner in which the Pakistan government treated Sarabjit was, though not humane, better than what the Government of India did to Afzal Guru who was not a foreign national or an enemy but a citizen of this country. Before we accuse Pakistan, let us first set better examples.
It was not only Sarabjit who died on Thursday; along with him died the hope that the ties between India and Pakistan would improve and that Islamabad would change its hostile attitude towards New Delhi. Extremists in Pakistan wanted Sarabjit to be executed in response to Ajmal Kasab’s and Afzal Guru’s execution.
But can the case of Kasab be compared with that of Sarabjit? Kasab’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks was beyond doubt while Sarabjit’s conviction was doubtful from day one.
Sarabjit Singh’s death has exposed Pakistan’s weakness as a state. India too has many terror convicts on death row but those charged with terror are given a fair trial and recourse to law. No death row convict has died here while being treated in a hospital for injuries sustained in prison.
The least Islamabad and New Delhi can do is to take the peace process forward so that Indian and Pakistani prisoners languishing in each other’s jails can be given a speedy trial and be repatriated.
Sarabjit’s death is murder most foul. Pakistan was built on anti-India ideology. It keeps hatred and acrimony towards India alive to survive. The killing of our soldiers on the LoC is another instance of this hate. Sarabjit’s death should drive home the fact that no matter how soft and magnanimous we are towards Pakistan, it will always be antagonistic to us.
It was frustrating to learn that the man jailed for over 20 years on a charge that could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt succumbed to his injuries caused by a violent attack on him in prison by fellow prisoners. Indian diplomacy failed to bring him back even though President Zardari commuted Sarabjit’s death sentence.
The hostility between India and Pakistan makes it virtually impossible to achieve what can be otherwise achieved by bilateral talks with mutual understanding.