L A T E S T      N E W S

Sarabjit Singh cremated with state honours

Bhikhiwind (Punjab): The mortal remains of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who died after being brutally assaulted in a Pakistani jail, were on Friday consigned to flames in his village with full state honours amid emotional scenes.

A contingent of Punjab Police reversed their arms and then fired shots in the air as a mark of respect to 49-year-old Sarabjit, who died on Thursday in a Lahore hospital.

The pyre was lit by Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur in the presence of his wife Sukhpreet Kaur, daughters Swapandeep and Poonam and son-in-law Sanjay. Dalbir Kaur was assisted by local SAD MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha.

A large crowd comprising villagers and VIPs, including Congress Vice president Rahul Gandhi, bid a heartfelt adieu to Sarabjit, whose body was brought here late last night 23 years after he inadvertently crossed over to Pakistan.

The final journey of Sarabjit commenced at around 1.15 pm with his coffin, wrapped in the Tricolour, being taken to a flower-bedecked hearse van stationed adjacent to a government school ground where the body had been placed for the people to pay their last respects.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur were among others present. Badal had announced a state funeral and three-day state mourning besides financial aid to the family and government jobs for his daughters.

A Granthi recited prayers at the cremation ground before the pyre was lit. People climbed rooftops of nearby houses to have a last glimpse of Sarabjit.

Others present included Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, Vice-Chairman of National SC Commission Raj Kumar Verka, Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma and leaders representing various parties, including SAD, BJP and Congress. — PTIBack








Pakistan prisoner critical after attack in Jammu jail

JAMMU: A Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Haq serving life term was attacked inside the high-security Kot Balwal jail in Jammu by a fellow inmate Friday morning and his condition is stated to be serious, official sources said.

It was not immediately known whether the attack on the 52-year-old convict with a sharp weapon was a backlash against the death of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in a hospital in Pakistan on Thursday after being comatose for nearly a week following a brutal assault by fellow inmates in a high-security Lahore jail, officials said. 

Official sources said the Kot Balwal jail superintendent Rajni Sehgal has been suspended by the Jammu and Kashmir government which also ordered a probe.

Sources said Sanaullah, a resident of Pakistan, was admitted in Government Medical College hospital in an unconscious condition with serious injuries on his head.

A case of assault was registered against Vinod Kumar, an ex-serviceman who is also serving a life term in the jail on the outskirts of Jammu. Kumar hails from Uttrakhand.

The sources said the health condition of Sanaullah was stated to be very critical as he was hit with a very sharp weapon. He may be shifted to Chandigarh's PGI for treatment as his Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) was pretty low.

GCS is a scale for measuring level of consciousness, especially after a head injury, in which scoring is determined by three factors: amount of eye opening, verbal responsiveness, and motor responsiveness.

Sanaullah was arrested on April 1999 in connection with five cases related to terror activities. The attack occurred ahead of Sarabjit's funeral at his native village in Punjab.

Following the death of 49-year-old Sarabjit in Pakistan, Union Home Ministry had issued advisories to all states for maintaining high vigil in jails and ensuring there was no attack on any Pakistani prisoner lodged there.

Excluding fishermen, there are about 220 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. A similar number of Indians are lodged in Pakistani jails.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has raised the issue of attack on its nationals lodged in a Jammu jail with India and sought immediate consular access to him. 

"Pakistan High Commission has shown serious concern. It has taken up with ministry of external affairs the attack on Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah in Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu," the Press attache in the High Commission said in New Delhi.

He said apart from seeking immediate consular access, the high commission has also asked for detailed information about the incident and medical facilities for the victim and security of other Pakistani inmates.

The attack on Sanaullah comes a day after the death of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh after a murderous attack on him in a Lahore prison.

49-year-old Sarabjit had sustained severe injuries when at least six prisoners attacked him in a barrack at Kot Lakhpat Jail last week, hitting him on the head with bricks.

He was on death row after being convicted of alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Pakistan's Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990 and spent about 22 years in Pakistani prisons. Sarabjit's family has said his was a case of mistaken identity.

The Union Home Ministry has asked all the states to step up security of Pakistani prisoners lodged in their respective jails after the attack in Lahore prison.

The Ministry of External Affairs has termed the attack as "regrettable". It also said the matter was being investigated and the guilty will be punished.

MEA also said the injured was receiving medical treatment and once the proper medical arrangements were in place, consular access will be provided.

"We are aware of the regrettable incident involving a Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah who was injured today (Friday) during an altercation with another inmate of the jail in Jammu. The matter is being investigated and the guilty will be punished. Safety and security of prisoners in custody lies with the jail authorities and the necessary action is being taken," MEA spokesperson Syed Akabaruddin said.

"We are in touch with the Pakistan High Commission on the matter. The injured is receiving the medical treatment and once the medical arrangements are in place, the consular access will be provided," he added.

He also said that in view of these tragic incidents, which included killing of two Indian prisoners in a Pakistani jail and that involving a Pakistani prisoner in a jail in Jammu on Friday, there is a need to take stock of the current measures in place to ensure 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.

He also noted that India had recently requested the joint Judicial Committee to visit jails in Pakistan. This was Committee's sixth meeting and they have made some recommendations.

There are nearly 535 Indian prisoners (including 483 fishermen) in Pakistani jails and a total of 270 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. — PTIBack







Pak prosecutor handling 26/11, Bhutto case killed

ISLAMABAD: A senior prosecutor handling the 26/11 Mumbai attack case and Benazir Bhutto assassination case was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in the Pakistani capital on Friday, the police said.

Gunmen riding a motorcycle fired at the car of Federal Investigation Agency prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfizar Ali in the busy commercial area of Karachi Company at 7.30am.

Ali, who was driving, was hit by several bullets and lost control of the car. The vehicle hit a woman crossing the road and she too died later in hospital.

His bodyguard, Frontier Corps trooper Farman Ali, was injured in the attack.

Ali was heading for an anti-terrorism court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi for a hearing of the Bhutto assassination case when he was attacked, his son Nisar told the media.

The prosecutor and his bodyguard were taken to the state-run Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

Some doctors said Ali was killed instantly as several bullets had hit him in the face.

The gunmen escaped after the brazen shooting. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Ali's son Nisar and unnamed colleagues were quoted by TV news channels as saying that the prosecutor had been receiving threats from a banned extremist group for some time.

His colleagues said he had continued pursing high-profile terrorism cases despite these threats.

The prosecutor was gunned down at a time when there have been important developments in both the Mumbai attack case and Bhutto assassination case.

On April 13, a private witness from Karachi had identified Shahid Jamil Riaz, one of the accused in the Mumbai attack case, as the person who had bought inflatable boats used by the terrorists who assaulted India's financial hub in November 2008.

The Federal Investigation Agency had recently begun interrogating former president Pervez Musharraf over the 2007 assassination of Bhutto. — PTIBack








RBI cuts interest rate by 0.25 per cent

MUMBAI: Sticking to its cautious stance, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday cut the key interest rate by just 0.25 per cent to 7.25 per cent and kept the liquidity enhancing cash reserve requirement unchanged, disappointing the industry and stock market.

The RBI in its annual monetary policy statement said there would be modest improvement in the country’s economic growth to 5.7 per cent in the current fiscal, as against the decade’s low of 5 per cent in 2012-13.

Justifying the limited easing, RBI Governor D. Subbarao said the “monetary policy action, by itself, cannot revive growth. It needs to be supplemented by efforts towards easing the supply bottlenecks, improving governance and stepping public investment”.

The upside risks to inflation, which cooled to a three-year low in March, “still remain significant” in the near term on suppressed inflation on the energy front, Subbarao added.

“Overall, the balance of risks stemming from the Reserve Bank’s assessment of the growth-inflation dynamic yields little space for further policy easing,” he said.

The decision to leave the CRR unchanged seems to have been driven by an improvement in the liquidity deficit, as the banks are now drawing around Rs 84,000 crore from the overnight window compared to Rs 1.8 lakh crore late last fiscal.

RBI expects inflation to hover broadly around the 5.5 per cent mark in the current fiscal and said it will deploy “all instruments at command” to bring it down to 5 per cent by March next year.

Even though factors like lower commodity prices and narrowing fiscal deficit would help stem inflation, RBI said the “upside risks to inflation are still significant in the short term” in view of supply imbalances, correction in administrative prices of fuel and rising minimum support price for crops.

Given these factors, “Monetary policy cannot afford to lower its guard against the possibility of resurgence in inflation pressures,” Subbarao said. — PTIBack







Sajjan acquittal: AAP joins Sikh protest

NEW DELHI: In support of the Sikh community's protests over the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Friday joined the hunger strike for a day at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi.

"We are joining hands with our Sikh brothers to protest against the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar. We will join the protest of the family of Nirpreet Kaur, who began her indefinite hunger strike from today (Friday)," Manish Sisodia, senior AAP member told IANS.

In solidarity with Kaur, AAP members Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sidoda, Gopal Rai, Sanjay Singh and Kumar Vishwas will also sit on a day's fast, and later continue to support her indefinite hunger strike.

Various Sikh groups have been on protest since Tuesday, ever since the verdict was pronounced.

On Thursday, they staged a protest at the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Over 115 protesters were detained and later let off.

A day after the verdict, on Wednesday, protesters had blocked busy roads in the national capital. Metro services were also disrupted by the protests for a few hours.

The Sikh groups are angry that a city court acquitted Sajjan Kumar in a case related to the killing of five people in the Delhi Cantonment area during violence against Sikhs that followed the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi Oct 31, 1984.

The court convicted five others in the case. — IANSBack







Chinese incursion: Khurshid meets Mulayam

NEW DELHI: Against the backdrop of sharp attack by Samajwadi Party on the government over the Chinese incursion, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday briefed its party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav about the government's stand and strategy to deal with the issue.

Khurshid, along with minister of state in the PMO Narayanasamy, met Yadav in Parliament House this morning.

SP sources said Yadav was briefed about the government's stand and strategy to deal with the incursion in Ladakh region. The issue of Sarabjit Singh also cropped up during the 40-minute discussion, they said.

"Now government is showing some seriousness. But the need is to drive the Chinese out of our territory...it is a very serious matter," Yadav later told reporters outside Parliament House.

The SP chief said the Chinese army had entered 1 km inside Indian territory when he was the defence minister. "I directed the (Indian) forces to drive them out. We entered four km inside Chinese territory in the process," he claimed.

Yadav said he told Khurshid that "Chinese cannot be trusted."

When asked about the meeting, Khurshid said, "I briefed him (Yadav) on various things."

A crucial outside ally of the UPA, Samajwadi Party had recently attacked the government in Lok Sabha over the Chinese incursion in Ladakh. The party had accused the government of acting in a "cowardly" manner and objected to Khurshid's forthcoming visit to China.

Yadav had said in the Lower House that the Chinese incursion was an "attack" on India and asked the government to retaliate even if it leads to war.

The SP supremo said China was the biggest threat India faced. He also asked the government to immediately cancel Khurshid's proposed Beijing visit. — PTI




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