M A I N   N E W S

Family visits Sarabjit, doctors see slim hope
Pak restricts consular access, doctors say 49-year-old has suffered grievous head injuries
Tribune News Service & PTI

Amritsar/Lahore/Islamabad, April 28
Pakistani doctors treating a comatose Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore hospital today said there was no improvement in his condition and chances of his survival were "slim" even as his distraught family visited him and demanded that he be sent to India for better treatment. India sought “regular consular access” to Sarabjit after Pakistani authorities imposed restrictions on meeting him.

Over 45 hours after death row convict Sarabjit was admitted to the state-run Jinnah Hospital with a severe head injury after a brutal assault in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, there has been "no sign" of recovery or improvement in his condition, doctors were quoted as saying. They believe the 49-year-old's chances of survival are "slim", as he sustained injuries over a widespread area of his head that led to unconsciousness.

Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur, wife Sukhpreet Kaur and daughters Swapandeep and Poonam, visited him at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore soon after they crossed over from Wagah today afternoon. A senior doctor told PTI that Sarabjit's sister, wife and two daughters were allowed to see him through a window from outside the ICU as it was "not good for the patient as well as attendants to get close to each other".

Asked if Sarabjit's relatives could have been allowed to get close to him after wearing protective clothing and masks, the doctor said, "We cannot take any chances with regard to the health of our patients. Sarabjit Singh is not in a condition that a visitor can be allowed to sit by him.”

"Sarabjit's face is swollen, he was beaten up with iron rods... He is unconscious, in a very critical condition..." his sister Dalbir said. His wife Sukhpreet appealed to Pakistani authorities to send her husband back to India for better treatment. A team of Indian doctors is also accompanying the family and will determine if he should be shifted to another hospital for better treatment, Pakistani media reported.

The family had last met Sarabjit in jail in 2008 while Dalbir Kaur had visited him again in jail in 2011.

Sources said Sarabjit's skull was fractured after he was hit on the head with bricks and his face and torso cut with weapons fashioned from spoons and pieces of ghee tins during Friday’s assault. Doctors found a haematoma (a localised collection of blood outside vessels) larger than 3 cm, indicating that he was in need of surgical intervention, sources told PTI.

Another source quoted doctors as saying that Sarabjit's condition was measured as 5 on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), which indicates the level of damage to a person's central nervous system. The lowest possible GCS score is 3 while the highest is 15.

The GCS assesses level of consciousness after a profound head injury and Sarabjit's reading indicated deep unconsciousness, making his treatment a major neurosurgical challenge for the medical board set up by authorities. After the medical board examined Sarabjit again today, its members agreed it would not be possible to perform surgery on him 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 CS Das paid a visit to the hospital.

"Indian officials were given access to Sarabjit Singh only once. Thereafter, there has been no access to Sarabjit," an official of the Indian High Commission told PTI. "The matter has been taken up with the Pakistani side and the Foreign Office has been requested to give us regular consular access to Sarabjit Singh," said the official.

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.

Though the government had said it would allow one of Sarabjit's family members to stay in a room within Jinnah Hospital, the four women left for a hotel on the Mall Road after visiting the ICU. The family had last met Sarabjit in jail in 2008 while Dalbir Kaur had visited him again in jail in 2011. 

Prayer on lips, hope in the heart

Prior to leaving for Pakistan, Sarabjit’s family offered prayers at the Golden Temple and took along ‘amrit’ from the Dukhbhanjani Beri. His sister Dalbir Kaur said, “The ‘amrit’ has spiritual power which will resurrect my brother, who is battling for his life in the neighbouring country. We hope to bring him back hale and hearty.” 

We never imagined we would have to visit him under such circumstances. We are taking with us the prayers of crores of countrymen and are hopeful of his quick recovery.
— Swapandeep & Poonam, Sarabjit’s daughters





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