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Pakistan gets into damage control mode after Sarab

In a damage control exercise shortly after Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh died in a Lahore hospital, Pakistani authorities slapped murder charges against two jail inmates for his brutal murder and ordered a judicial probe.

Lahore/Islamabad: In a damage control exercise shortly after Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh died in a Lahore hospital, Pakistani authorities on Thursday slapped murder charges against two jail inmates for his brutal murder and ordered a judicial probe.

The decisions came after stinging criticism from India as also Sarabjit`s family on Pakistan`s refusal to hand over Sarabjit for better treatment and its inability to provide adequate security despite having being warned of threats to his life.

Sarabjit, the second Indian prisoner to die in Pakistan`s notorious Kot Lakhpat jail here in Lahore this year, was brutally attacked on Friday by six fellow inmates as he and other prisoners were brought out of their cells for a break.

The Lahore Police added murder charges to the FIR registered against death row prisoners ? Amer Aftab alias Amer Tambewala and Mudassar who were booked for the attack on 49-year-old Sarabjit.

Officials at Kot Lakhpat police station confirmed that they had added Section 302 (murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code against Aftab and Mudassar after the death of Sarabjit.

His body was handed over to Indian High Commission official to be flown to Amristar on a special Air India aircraft after an autopsy was conducted at the Jinnah Hospital in Lahore.

Sarabjit died of cardiac arrest in a Lahore hospital at 1:30 AM (IST) today after being comatose for nearly a week following the assault.

Police investigators are yet to complete their probe into the attack. They recorded the statements of both accused but are yet to submit a `challan` or chargesheet against them in court. They have also failed to trace the weapons used in the assault.

Najam Sethi, the caretaker Chief Minister of Pakistan`s Punjab province, today assured Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sahbarwal that those responsible for the murder of Sarabjit will be brought to justice.

The Indian envoy, who was on a scheduled visit to Lahore, met Sethi to discuss the issue of Sarabjit.

Sethi ordered a judicial enquiry and directed officials to ensure that the probe was completed in 15 days.

"Chief Minister Najam Sethi has directed the Home Department to prepare terms of reference for a judicial inquiry into the murder of Sarabjit Singh. The inquiry would be completed within 15 days," a Punjab government spokesman told a news agency.

The inquiry will be conducted by a High Court judge, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

Sethi said he hoped Sarabjit`s murder will not affect relations between India and Pakistan.

He said: "I believe in a peaceful relationship with India as people-to-people contacts will help improve relations between the two countries".

He said both countries need to fight poverty and to direct their energies towards the economic progress of the people.

Shortly before the meeting with the Indian envoy, Sethi ordered the judicial inquiry into the murder of Sarabjit, who died in Jinnah Hospital early this morning after being comatose for nearly a week following an assault by other prisoners of Kot Lakhpat Jail.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed sadness over Sarabjit`s death, saying criminals responsible for the barbaric and murderous attack on the Indian national must be brought to justice.

Sarabjit`s sister accused Pakistan of backstabbing India and said she would fight for `other Sarabjits` languishing in Pakistani jails.

An emotional Dalbir Kaur said, ""(Pakistan President Asif Ali) Zardari killed my brother for (victory in) elections," adding, "I will fight for the `other Sarabjits` languishing in Pakistani jails."

Sarabjit was convicted of alleged involvement in bomb attacks in Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990 and spent about 22 years in Pakistani prisons.

His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former President Pervez Musharraf.

The previous Pakistan Peoples Party-led government put off Sarabjit`s execution for an indefinite period in 2008.

Sarabjit`s family says he was the victim of mistaken identity and had mistakenly strayed across the border in an inebriated state.


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