Pakistani prisoner beaten in India in tit-for-tat assault

Indian prisoner died one day earlier after attack in Lahore jail

Asia Correspondent

A Pakistani prisoner being held in an Indian jail has been attacked and seriously injured in a tit-for-tat assault one day after the death of an Indian prisoner in a jail in Lahore.

Indian officials confirmed that prisoner Sanaullah Haq was badly beaten by a fellow inmate in a prison in the city of Jammu. Reports said he was transferred to a hospital in Chandigargh with head injuries. India's foreign ministry said he was in a stable condition.

The attack on Mr Haq happened as the Indian authorities held a cremation ceremony for Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh who died on Thursday following an attack in a Lahore jail a week ago. Mr Singh, who was accused of spying for India and who was convicted over bomb attacks that left 14 people dead, had been a ventilator since he was attacked by an inmate armed with a brick on April 26.

Mr Singh's family, and subsequently the Indian government, denied the allegations made by the Pakistanis. He was cremated in his native village in north India's Punjab state with local and national politicians among the guests and a 21-gun salute.

Among those who joined mourners was Rahul Gandhi, widely tipped to a future prime minister of India and the son of the late Rajiv Gandhi. Thousands of people carried flags and chanted "death to Pakistan"

India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had said the attack on Mr Singh had been "barbaric". By contrast a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry termed the assault upon the Pakistani prisoner as "regrettable".

Mr Haq was imprisoned in 1999 and was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for being a Pakistani militant operating in Indian Kashmir. The charges against him included murder and waging war against India. The Associated Press said the attack on Friday happened after he had got into an argument with a prisoner as the two smoked in the jail compound.

That prisoner was identified as Vinod Kumar, a court-martialled Indian soldier who is also serving a life term for murder. The Indian authorities said an investigation had been launched into what took place and that the prison chief and another official had been suspended.

The incident is embarrassing for the authorities given that an order had supposedly been given to step-up security for Pakistani prisoners following the death of Mr Singh.

The Indian government said there are currently 535 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails and 272 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. India has proposed a meeting of officials in both countries to "identify and put in place further measures to avoid such tragic incidents in future".

Pakistan;s Foreign Ministry called the Jammu jail attack an "obvious retaliation" for the killing of the Indian prisoner.

"This obvious retaliation to the death of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh is condemnable," ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said in a statement. "We would also remind the government of India of its responsibility in ensuring the safety and security of all Pakistani prisoners lodged in Indian jails."

A spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said Indian officials were ensuring that Mr Haq gets the medical treatment he requires and would grant consular access to him as soon as his condition stabilises.

Pakistan has requested that Mr Haq be allowed to return to Pakistan on humanitarian grounds - a request also made by India for Mr Singh but which was refused.

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