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Pakistan ‘positively considering’ plea for sending Sarabjit to India

Anita Joshua
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New Delhi suggested shifting him to a third country

Sarabjit Singh
Sarabjit Singh

Pakistan is “positively considering India’s request to repatriate Sarabjit Singh to India’’ but a final decision is yet to be taken, diplomatic sources said late on Wednesday night after New Delhi suggested shifting the death row prisoner to a third country as an alternative.

The alternative to repatriating Singh was proposed by Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal during a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani on Tuesday. While making the alternative proposal, India also pointed out that this is not the time for invoking legal and bureaucratic reasons for not taking the right steps to save a human life. “We believe that every endeavour should be made to save his life,” a statement by the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi about the meeting said.

The alternative proposal was mooted after Pakistan maintained a studied silence over India’s appeal on Monday to shift Singh to an Indian hospital for treatment. During their discussion, Mr. Sabharwal reiterated India’s appeal to immediately release Singh on humanitarian and sympathetic grounds so that he can benefit from the best available treatment in India.

Till Wednesday night, the Foreign Office did not reveal its mind on the various suggestions made by India.

And, even now, there is no official word though diplomatic sources maintained that repatriating Singh to India was under active consideration.

‘Best possible care’

On Monday, hours before New Delhi appealed to Islamabad to shift Singh to India, federal Information & Broadcasting Minister Arif Nizami said Pakistan had no intention of shifting Singh to a medical facility overseas as the “best possible care” was being given to him in Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital.

Tight-rope walk

For Pakistan, releasing a death row Indian prisoner — who has been held guilty for the 1990 bomb blasts in Lahore and Faislabad which killed 14 people — could be a tight-rope walk as far as managing public opinion is concerned.

After India executed Afzal Guru for the 2001 Parliament House attack, demands for reciprocal hanging of Singh had been stepped up by several right-wing organisations, including the Jamat-ud-Da’wah (JuD).

However, after Singh was grievously injured in the attack on him by fellow prisoners at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail last Friday, the JuD remained silent on the issue.

Condition

Meanwhile, Singh/’s condition remained unchanged amid local media reports that he had slipped into “non-reversible coma” and was heading to “brain death.”

Since Monday, there have been reports quoting unnamed hospital sources stating that he was brain dead but this had been denied.

In the absence of regular medical bulletins, speculation is rife with rumours thickening as they spread.

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