THE death of Sarabjit Singh on Thursday should be taken by Pakistan’s prison administrations as a wake-up call — they should be forced to review their treatment of prisoners who may be at risk because of the nature of their crime or their identity. Across the world, incidents occur of inmates attacking each other and therefore it is standard practice to provide convicts at risk with extra protection. Singh was an Indian national convicted of spying and of playing a role in the bombings that killed several people in 1990. Had the prison authorities been more vigilant, this sad incident could have been prevented. The same can be said of India, where a Pakistani prisoner, Sanaullah Haq, in Indian-held Kashmir was attacked by a fellow inmate and critically injured yesterday.

Singh was given a state funeral amidst the din of angry protests and a hawkish stance on part of the country’s media; the government in Indian Punjab declared a three-day period of state mourning and its assembly unanimously passed a resolution terming Singh “a national martyr”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, meanwhile, referred to him in a statement as a “brave son of India”. So who was Sarabjit Singh and what was he doing in Pakistan? If he was merely someone who had crossed the border accidentally, as his family claims, why the state funeral? If, on the other hand, he was an agent of the Indian government, as Pakistani courts found him to be, why the decades-long silence in Indian diplomatic quarters over his incarceration here? Or was he merely a pawn in the spy-vs-spy game that many suspected characterised the hostile India-Pakistan relationship during the period he was arrested and sentenced? Given the anger being voiced across India over Singh’s death, and possible resentment here against the attack on Sanaullah Khan, it is necessary to remember those years and exercise restraint. The process of the normalising of ties must continue; hawkish attitudes yield few benefits while restraint and goodwill offer many.

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Comments (20)

May 4, 2013 9:18 pm
It's time India should stop all the relations with its militant neighbor, something on the lines of USA-Cuba political framework; it will be better for both the countries concerned. They can then get on with their own internal issues. All these talks by the so-called leftists of " the process of normalizing relations" is just that, talks for the last more than sixty years. Its fooling people by the vested parties.
May 4, 2013 9:46 pm
Armchair warriors seem to be a dime a dozen in India.
Amin Kalimuddin
May 4, 2013 10:19 pm
Their media is fine it represents a hindu country. Pakistani media in general and Dawn in particular is very shameful paper. Always anti Pakistani and anti Muslim paper.
May 4, 2013 11:39 am
India kills innocents and label them terrorists and if any Indian terrorist is killed, they are calling him martyr. Surebjit was convicted as a terrorist by the Pakistani court, no body should have doubt about any countries court ruling. Still politician giving him 1 Cr.
May 4, 2013 3:40 pm
Non-political personalities like Sai Baba and Mother Teresa also received State Funerals. As did singer Bhupen Hazarika. So what's your point? Simply put, Sarabjit's state funeral is meant to reiterate the Govt of India's belief that he was an Indian citizen who was framed by the State of Pakistan and made to suffer, all because of that nation's enmity with India. For that, he was a martyr for the cause of India, and deserved to be honoured.
May 4, 2013 11:58 pm
anyone being killed in jail is wrong.. irrespective of why they are there.. i feel as much bad for sanaullah as for sarabjit..
Syed Ahmed
May 4, 2013 11:00 pm
In a Tit for Tat game, the Indians has reportedly killed a Pakistani prisoner in one of their jails. Will Pakistani government send its consular and a special air craft to bring home the dead body?
Syed Ahmed
May 4, 2013 11:05 pm
Ties with Indian will never be normal. The partioning of the Indian Sub Continant was based of Indian mistrust.
May 5, 2013 1:31 am
Normalization is not possible unless Pakistan's political system finds another reason to live as a nation other than to settle a score with India. Look at USA and Canada. No worries between the two countries and each prospers. I guess we wont see similar prosperity in these two nations ever,
Abdullah Hussain
May 5, 2013 3:04 am
By giving state funeral the Indian govt has accepted that Sarabjeet was no ordinary person and that he was sent to Pakistan with a mission that Sarabjeet accomplished well but was caught by the vigil police. There is no denying of the fact that this man was very rightly convicted for his acts. Coming to providing security to high risk prisoners the govt should make foolproof arrangement to avoid repetition of such undesirable acts in the future
May 4, 2013 3:42 pm
Unfortunately, that would skew the numbers quite heavily to one side.
B R Chawla
May 4, 2013 3:11 pm
How does it help to keep the prisoners for twenty years in a country that does not belong to them. And how does it help to torture them constantly after they have been convicted be it in India or Pakistan. I condemn the torture and termination of their lives through extra judicial manner. What in the fault of the fishermen for which they are imprisoned - just because a few fish in their waters got caught by these poor people who risks their lives on high seas to support their families. I appeal to the conscience of both Indian and Pakistanis to release these prisoners or at least exchange them. No harm would by giving a few years of life to these hapless victims of circumstances. Chawla
May 4, 2013 7:28 am
"The process of the normalizing of ties must continue"? who are you kidding?
May 4, 2013 1:57 pm
Shame on the Pakistan government for returning a terrorists body to his country He should have been buried in an unmarked grave
Manish Singh
May 4, 2013 5:08 am
Just kill whoever crosses border on each side -- keep it simple. Peace!
May 4, 2013 10:09 am
It is very simple. Till some mechanism exists to return back prisoners, keep them in solitary confinement and not with other prisoners.Having killed Sarabjhit in the jail, Pakistan has no authority to question who he was now.
May 4, 2013 1:57 pm
Inability to keep a prisoner alive is impotence of the state.
Bashir Mirza Qatar
May 4, 2013 10:10 am
Excellent observation, Dawn. State funerals are given to people who have served the state. Sarabjit was an Indian agent, who was caught. Unfortunately there are many others who don't get caught.
May 4, 2013 5:37 am
There is an urgent need of exchanging the prisoners to happen immediately. Indians and Pakistani govts should make prisoners list urgently and exchange them immediately
May 4, 2013 1:24 pm
Chamel Singh another Indian prisoner was murdered a few days before Sarabjit was attacked, by jail staff, not fellow prisoners. Sarabjit attack was facilitated by the same jail staff involved in the earlier murder. In all of this I feel sorry for Sanaullah, whatever may have been his original crime.
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