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Sarabjit’s chances slim, family pleads for help

Pakistan stops consular access to wounded Indian death row inmate

Gulf News

Lahore/Amritsar: Having seen him in a Lahore hospital where doctors said his chances were “slim”, the family of Sarabjit Singh, the Indian death row prisoner brutally assaulted by fellow inmates, on Sunday pleaded for help from Indian government and prayers to save his life.

With doctors at the Jinnah hospital in Lahore saying that Sarabjit’s condition was “critical” and “chances of his survival were slim”, the family, which reached Lahore in the afternoon, pleaded that he be allowed to be taken back to India or any other country immediately for treatment.

“When we met him in the ICU, he was just lying there. Doctors told us that his condition was critical. Please help us to save my brother’s life,” Sarabjit’s elder sister Dalbir Kaur said in Lahore. She is accompanied by his wife Sukhpreet Kaur, and two daughters, Swapandeep and Poonam.

“His daughters called him out ‘Papa’. His wife called out to him. But he lay there like a stone. I could not understand what to say,” she said.

“I plead to our government with folded hands. Please take him to any country for his treatment. Don’t waste time, save him,” she pleaded.

“He is completely unconscious. He does not know anything. He is on ventilator,” Dalbir Kaur said.

Sarabjit, 49, suffered critical head injuries in the assault by four to five prisoners with bricks and plates in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore on Friday. He has been in Pakistan prisons for over 22 years.

“I want to know how the iron rods, bricks, cutters and other things reached inside the prison to carry out the attack on Sarabjit. It was a big conspiracy,” Dalbir Kaur said.

Sarabjit has been linked to a ventilator in the intensive care unit of Jinnah Hospital.

“Singh was diagnosed on Saturday with 3/15 Glasgow coma scale (GCS); that elaborates upon his critical state of conscious level,” one of the doctors treating him told Dawn newspaper.

He said the GCS was a neurological scale aimed at assessing level of consciousness after profound head injury and the reading of 3/15 indicated deep unconsciousness.

Sarabjit’s treatment has thus turned out to be a major neurosurgical challenge for the medical board constituted by the authorities, the doctor said.

Anjum Habib Vohra, a senior neurosurgeon and principal of the Post-Graduate Medical Institute, Zafar Chaudhry, head of Jinnah Hospital’s neuro department, and Naeem Kasuri, neuro physician of King Edward Medical University, are members of the medical board.

The doctor, who was not named, told Dawn that Sarabjit had suffered a critical bone fracture when he was taken to Jinnah Hospital’s surgical emergency on Friday evening.

During clinical assessment, it was established that Sarabjit had diffused brain injury over a widespread area of his head that led to unconsciousness.

Doctors also discovered a haematoma (a localised collection of blood outside the blood vessels) which was greater than three centimetres, which indicated that the patient was in dire need of surgical intervention.

However, the medical board examined Sarabjit twice on Saturday and doctors were of the view that there was no need for surgical intervention at this stage.

Sarabjit is being kept in a separate intensive care unit in unprecedented police security and no one is being allowed to see him except doctors.

However, first secretary in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad C.S. Das paid a visit to the hospital.

Sarabjit has been on death row in Pakistan since 1990 after being convicted by Pakistani courts for bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan, which left 14 people dead. His family claims he is innocent, and that he crossed over to Pakistan in August 1990 in an inebriated state, and was arrested there.

Meanwhile, Indian government officials said Pakistan denied consular access to Sarabjit Singh.

“Officials from the Indian High Commission in Pakistan were not allowed to visit Sarabjit Singh on Sunday. The authorities have also refused to share his medical updates with the Indian officials,” said a senior Indian official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said the Indian foreign ministry was making “every possible attempt” to get information about Singh’s health and using every “diplomatic mechanism to get an update about the situation”.

“It is crucial for us to know about Singh’s health and Pakistan cannot deny information to India,” said another government official in New Delhi.

The Pakistan foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.