Pak prisoner is attacked in Jammu jail, seriously injured

FPPakistani prisoner Sanaullah being taken to a Jammu hospital Friday
A day after Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh died of his injuries after being assaulted in a Lahore jail, a Pakistani prisoner in Jammu's Kot Bhalwal jail was seriously injured Friday following an attack with bricks and a shovel by another inmate.

The 52-year-old Pakistani, Sanaullah Ranjay, was flown to PGI Chandigarh for treatment within hours of the attack. Doctors said his condition was critical as he had suffered serious head injuries and also had multiple fractures. Although the motive behind the assault was not clear, it is being seen as a response to Sarabjit's death.

New Delhi expressed its regret at the incident while Islamabad demanded that Sanaullah be sent back to Pakistan for treatment just as India had asked for Sarabjit's return.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the attack was "extremely distressing" and rubbished the talk about retaliation and conspiracy. "Injuries caused to a person in incarceration is unacceptable and sad. Therefore we are cooperating with Pakistan," Khurshid told reporters accompanying him on a three-day visit to Iran. "The talks of retaliation, conspiracy, intent to kill can continue indefinitely if we continue on this path."

Expressing his deep concern, Pakistan's caretaker Prime Minister Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into "this grave issue personally" and ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted into the incident and the perpetrators brought to justice.

"To the family of Sanaullah, I assure that the Government of Pakistan is seeking the best medical treatment for him. We have asked the Indian authorities to accord consular access to our high commission in New Delhi to visit Sanaullah. We have also called for his evacuation to Pakistan on medical and humanitarian grounds," he said in a statement.

"It is our expectation that the Indian government would ensure the safety of all Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails and also facilitate expeditious release of all those Pakistani prisoners who have completed their jail terms," Khoso said.

Both Pakistan and India should continue to make sincere efforts to avoid the occurrence of such incidents and focus on issues of safety and security of prisoners in each other's prisons in existing forums under the composite dialogue process, he said.

Indian government sources said that Sanaullah's condition was stable but he remained under medical watch. He was attacked around 8 am when the jail inmates were out of their cells for routine work.

According to a preliminary probe, Sanaullah - who is serving a life term after being convicted under TADA provisions following his arrest in 1999 - was working in the garden with other prisoners and entered into an argument with Vinod Kumar, a fellow inmate serving a life term in another case.

Official sources said the argument turned violent and Kumar, an ex-serviceman from Uttarakhand, hit Sanaullah with bricks and a shovel on his head. The Pakistani prisoner was lying unconscious in a pool of blood before other inmates could intervene, jail officials said.

A case has been registered against Kumar. Two prison officers, including jail superintendent Rajni Sehgal, have been suspended by the Jammu and Kashmir government which also ordered an inquiry by the Divisional Commissioner (Jammu). Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde too ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Within hours of the incident, the Ministry of External Affairs called it "regrettable" and said the matter was being investigated and the guilty will be punished.

The Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi sought consular access, and also demanded that Sanaullah be "released urgently and repatriated to Pakistan for medical treatment and on humanitarian grounds". They also asked for facilitation for allowing an air ambulance to airlift him.

MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that Sanaullah was receiving treatment and once the medical arrangements were in place, consular access will be provided. By evening, consular access and permission to travel to Chandigarh was granted to three Pakistani High Commission officials and a driver.

"The matter is being investigated and the guilty will be punished. Safety and security of prisoners in custody lies with the jail authorities and necessary action is being taken. We are in touch with the Pakistan High Commission on the matter," Akbaruddin said.

Sanaullah is also thought to be the mastermind behind the digging of a tunnel in Kot Balwal jail when prison authorities had separated Pakistani prisoners from other inmates. After the the plan was unearthed, the Pakistani convicts and other inmates were kept together to prevent them from escaping.

The Pakistani prisoner who had been involved in eight cases of militancy related violence, had been awarded life sentence by a TADA court in Jammu in 2009 for engineering a bomb explosion in a Katra bound bus that killed 10 Vaishno Devi pilgrims and injured 43 in 1994. He was also awarded a life term for another bomb blast in a van near Satwari that killed seven passengers the same year.

Vinod had been in jail for the last six years, serving a life term for murdering his superior. Before he fought with Sanaullah, the two were said to be working together and even smoked a beedi.

Official sources said the Pakistani High Commission has been informed that in view of the strong sentiments in India following the death of Sarabjit, the Indian government had taken several steps to enhance security of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails.

Akbaruddin said that in view of these tragic incidents there is a need to take stock of the current measures in place to ensure the safety, security and humane treatment of Indian and Pakistani prisoners in each other's jails. "For this, we are proposing a meeting of the concerned authorities of both countries to study the recommendations and identify and put in place further measures to avoid such tragic incidents in future," he said.

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