Sarabjit and Sanaullah: Politics over murders

Published: May 6, 2013

Unlike Sarabjit, the attack on Sanaullah appears to be a case of tit-for-tat.

The murder of Indian spy Sarabjit Singh inside Kot Lakhpat jail in Pakistan, the dastardly attack on Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah inside a Jammu jail and the foul manner in which the politicians of the two countries and especially electronic media whipped up the rhetoric, calling for the two nuclear armed countries to snap the ties after Sarabjit died, is a matter of grave concern and speaks a lot about the fragility of peace.

More than just baying for each other’s blood -which has become a pattern for patriotism driven, hyper-nationalistic people- these two incidents reflect the existential threat posed by thriving jingoism to relations between India and Pakistan and how the two countries, including their media and politicians, have used ordinary people and prisoners as tools of political vendetta to score some proverbial brownie points over each other.

Sarabjit’s case is particularly interesting. For decades, the Indian government left him to decay in Pakistan and kept their people in dark about the nature of the case. It was only after Punjab government gave him a state funeral and cash was given as compensation to his family that the haze of confusion obscuring the facts behind Sarabjit’s case cleared up to bring the reality at the doorsteps of many people deluded by lies fed by media to them.

With a leading Indian newspaper reporting on Monday that Sarabjit Singh was indeed working for India’s intelligence agencies, those vouching for his innocence must hang their heads in shame and introspect. No doubt his murder was a condemnable act and in no way justifiable for bringing justice to the people who were his victims in the past.

Conversely, then, it could also be said that a state funeral to Sarabjit Singh was an implicit admission by India that it, too, sponsors terrorists who kill ordinary people in Pakistan.

Sarabjit was convicted by a Pakistani court in a bomb blast that left at least 14 people dead and scores injured. Were they not worthy enough to get justice? Of course you may point out that Sarabjit’s trial was full of errors but how clean and taintless is the judicial system in the sub-continent where people are sent to gallows, not because the law has demanded, but it has to ‘satisfy the collective conscience’ of the deluded people.

At the other extreme of this political blame game is the case of Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay who was injured in a scuffle with another inmate in a Jammu jail, days after Sarabjit was killed. But unlike Sarabjit, the attack on Sanaullah appears to be a case of tit-for-tat.

A pickaxe was used to assault him. You don’t keep pickaxes in jails to scare away crows. There was a certain method to madness in this case which speaks a lot about how people in the two countries are baying for each other’s blood.

And even if the facts are not revealed, and we may never get to know them, the truth is that the overcrowded jails in the two countries have many Sarabjits and Sanaullahs who have become victims of collateral damage of the historical animosities between India and Pakistan. These actions inside the prisons are only reflecting the afflicted state of political leadership and existing hatred in the people of two countries against each other.

These powerless and exploited victims are waiting for justice from the over-burdened and crippled judicial system. Many of them have died unknown deaths.

What have the politicians and the media done to ensure a speedy trial for them?

Other than whipping up rhetoric meant to gain more TRP ratings, what has the interventionist and clientele media in India and Pakistan achieved by beating the drums of war?

What have they done to examine the soil of the subcontinent which is full of seditious skeletons, the story of whom we may never hear?

One of the most rabid news channels which follows a highly unprofessional code of journalism in India, showed a non-stop broadcast of Sarabjit’s sister’s emotional appeal to free her brother on the day he had not breathed his last, an appeal of release made by a sister for the man who had been convicted for the murder of 14 people. In such circumstances, it is but normal to breed hatred and spread animosity among the people.

By the way, how much time did its pretentious, oily-haired, foul-mouthed anchor gave to Afzal Guru’s wife to plead her husband’s case is anyone’s guess.

The condition of Sanaullah is critical. Some reports have even suggested that he is brain dead. In these times when bloodbath committed inside the prisons dictates the relations between the two countries, one can only wish and pray that Sanaullah survives, to tell his story to the people who have been fed lies over the years by their media and politicians.

India’s Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh said that the denial of Pakistan to release Sarabjit Singh was an ‘inhumane’ act. One wonders what the refusal by his government to let Afzal Guru, who was sent to gallows to ‘satisfy the collective conscience’ of India, see his family for one last time before his death was?

Was it a nationalistic act? An act of barbarism, more like it!

Read more by Jehangir here or follow him on Twitter @Gaamuk

Jehangir Ali

Jehangir Ali

An aspiring novelist, a proud son, a journalist, a coffee addict, a movie buff, in that order, Jehangir tweets as @Gaamuk

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    Was Sana a spy??!!Recommend

  • Ahmad Hashmi

    Though I never favoured the blame game diplomacy and politics, but on other hand we shouldn’t be that apologetic in not condemning the facts. It’s true that India did and continue to sponsor terrorism, not only in Pakistan but throughout the South Asian region. The other country badly affected was Srilanka. However, Pakistan can only take a strong position on this issue if she did everything to stop terrorism on her soil first.Recommend

  • Dharamveer nimiwal

    ndia and pakistan both don’t want to solve the issue. They want to drag it as long as possible to get votes from Innocent people of both sides and eat the hard earned money of poor people by blaming each other for their internal problems…..Here is the proof: Pakistani govt needs a sympathy of people right now becoz elections are ahead. At the ssame time Indian Govt is going through Corruption and rape crisis and want to divert the attention of Indians to other issues. Both govts planned and killed sarabjit. Indians overreacted over it putting indian govt into further trouble and then a paki prisoner is attacked in jammu to control the outrage. Don’t you think everything is planned by Indian and Paki govt and we the stupid people are totally unaware of it……Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    Not sure whether this blog is against the Indian state or a particular anchor. FYI you cannot blame the actions of an anchor on the state.Recommend

  • Muhammad Faysal

    And how Indians take pride in hailing a terrorist who killed 14 people in Pakistan as a ‘braveheart’. Only innocent hanging of Afzal Guru can ‘satisfy their collective conscience’. Or is badgering Sanaullah to comatose is enough?Recommend

  • Sane

    Some sane words in ET. No doubt an eye openeing piece for our apologetic elite.Recommend

  • heera

    He was a spy ,no doubt about it…He wrote an entire book on Sarabjit Singh case.Even his case witness backtracked from earlier words .Then why should we believe you.Recommend

  • Vivek

    It is time for the people and the leadership of the two countries to stop this charade and farce of a relationship., and go about our own separate ways. Nothing good has ever come out of this relationship. We have nothing to bind us anyway, as say the Europeans, since their culture and values system is based on:

    Judeo-Christian values
    Greek philosophy
    Roman Law.

    We have nothing equivalent, and the sooner we realize it the better it is for the people of both the countries. For starters we should break diplomatic relations with each other and the rest will follow suit.Recommend

  • LOL

    @Ahmad Hashmi: ask the whole world who sponsors terror and u wont be surprised to here whoRecommend

  • Bilal Hussain

    Wow….. good to read some neutralist opinion…. good to know that the media is not completely hijacked by apologetic-for-vested-interest ‘Aman Ki Asha’ who condemn terrorist Sarbhjit Singhs murder but not Sanaullah’s…. not even of Afzal Guru….Recommend

  • Bharat

    @Author, Afzal Guru was not beaten to pulp in an Indian jail. Recommend

  • Bharat

    The issue is the brutal manner in which Sarabjit was killed. There wouldn’t have been this much hue and cry if Sarabjit was hanged like Afzal following judicial process. But his extra judicial killing after spending 22 years in jails has stirred passions in India. The victim of which was Sanaullah. I hope he survives. Recommend

  • VJ

    Killing of Sarabjit was a tit for tat for the hanging of Afzal Guru, nice try in the first paragraph.Recommend

  • American Desi

    @Jehangir Ali: There is a difference between spy and terrorists. Spy’s act is collect intelligence and do espionage and sabotage. If the spy is involved in killing innocent people, he or she is crossing the line to be a terrorist on government payroll. Most of such spy act beyond the protocol of the rules of engagement and their act is mostly their personal agenda.
    Coming back to Sarbjit, even if he is a spy, he is innocent till “proven” guilty for his alleged act of bombing and killing 14 people. It is country like ours that the spy and terrorists are seen as same people. Is it because of media or perpetual echo of the hatred created by act of partition in 1947 ?

  • Insaan

    Conversely, then, it could also be said that a state funeral to Sarabjit Singh was an implicit admission by India that it, too, sponsors terrorists who kill ordinary people in Pakistan.


  • Asim

    @Author: Your journalistic skill are suspect. Maybe you can be a novelist … you sure can spin stories ….

    Sarabjit was not a spy working on behalf of India. What would he have benefited from by participating in those bomb blasts. what was he trying to achieve? What would India have gained from the incident.

    India and Pakistan cannot be equated on the same field when it comes to comparing their respective support for terrorism.

    Just because a person gets a state funeral does not mean all the things you have implied. Recommend

  • seeker

    yes this is what our leader told us which was resisted by your leadership”WE ARE TWO NATIONS HAVING NOTHING IN COMMON”good ! the new generation is realizing it once again. Recommend

  • Sane


    Please do not copy my Id. I have been commenting on these pages since quite sometimes. Recommend

  • seeker

    the dark cloud of Indian brutality, and a stubborn insist that “both the countries have done equally bad”, has a definite silver linning.
    India is once again exposed,probably more forcefully this time to our very enlightened elite minds who did not support the hanging of the terrorist at the first place for their very cheap motive of pleasing india. Recommend

  • maqbool
  • Saira Saeed

    I condemned the incident with sarbajit singh but then on social media i saw some indain channels reports and i think he was worth it (my sadness over what happened with him in jail) .The way indian media was potraying him almost as a hero a terrorist in Pakistan is a hero in india and you talk about “aman ki asha” that actually is “aman ka tamasha” i think now.Recommend

  • heera

    @Saira Saeed: Well no body is talking about Aman Ki Asha.The ruling congress party is govt of minority.It doesn’t boast on Hindu majority vote.This Aman ki Asha ,india -pak friendship club .all r election gimmick to appease Muslims. They vote for congress in return.I tell you,we Hindus and you Muslims have lived together for centuries. we know over all psyche of not only Indian Muslims but Muslims from Pakistan as well.Of course this obvious retaliation(which seemed to be one) was uncalled for and inhumane.But you know that’s how we lived together for centuries.Recommend

  • Saira Saeed

    our ancestors lived together and they fought for our freedom now we are TWO separate nations
    and terrorist for one should not be hero for other if you really really want peace between the two countries. My point here is Pakistani jail authorities did a bad job by not giving the security to a convicted murderer but why the same murderer is a hero in India? We(Pakistan) did a horrible lapse in security but what is India want to prove by giving him this much honor? Recommend

  • F

    There is hardly any parity as much as some always want to impose it by drawing false comparisons and creating confusion.
    – Both Sarabjit and Sanaullah were found to be spies. That is not the issue. They should have been given extra protection as soon as the jail authorities found out the danger to them. But the deeper troubling issue is: does hatred have any bounds?
    – Why could Sarabjit not have been handed to his family when Pakistani doctors declared him brain dead? His political value was zilch. What was the point in removing vital organs before sending Sarabjit’s body over? Who does that?! Educated Pakistani physicians! To hide what? Even if there was some medical reason, smug with hatred, no one tried to explain it.
    – India acted, too, late to protect Sanaullah. That is unfortunate and it is at fault. But it has taken proactive measures vis a vis other Pakistani prisoners. Hopefully, the prisoner recovers and india doesn’t fall into the trap of “settling” scores. Recommend

  • Vivek


    Since we agree that partition was inevitable, don’t you think that we need to have the remaining minorities in both countries to be exchanged, so that the ghost of partition is buried for ever( Sikhs, Jains and Christians from Pakistan and Muslims from India) ? I am sure Shahrukh Khan(the only thing missing is a cape) would lead the parade of Muslims from India with Emraan Hashmi, Shabana Azmi, tow.Recommend


    Jehangir: You say tit for tat? Then what you did in ’89 (JKLF etc), is just being reciprocated by the Indian Forces till date – THATS TIT FOR TAT!

  • Sane



    Since we agree that partition was inevitable, don’t you think that we need to have the remaining minorities in both countries to be exchanged, so that the ghost of partition is buried for ever( Sikhs, Jains and Christians from Pakistan and Muslims from India) ? I am sure Shahrukh Khan(the only thing missing is a cape) would lead the parade of Muslims from India with Emraan Hashmi, Shabana Azmi, tow.


  • heera

    @Saira Saeed: My point here is Pakistani jail authorities did a bad job by not giving the security to a convicted murderer but why the same murderer is a hero in India?
    That you should ask from your jail authorities.By killing him in a cold blooded murder.they made themselves villain in the eyes of indians.
    As far as as peace is concerned i will tell you,we can only reciprocate.Voices for hanging sarabjit became more vocal after kasab hanging .One of the member from PTI demanded ,immediate hanging of Sarabjit. You wanted to take revenge for kasab ,isnt it?while 100s of taliban terrorists were released in the name of peace.. no hue and cry for that.Tells lot about duplicity of you people. Only you have to decide whether you wanna peace or not. we r still not sure whether he was rightly convicted.This aman ki asha has no significance and we hindus disapprove it.We only recognize your action and expect same from you guys.Recommend

  • Saira Saeed

    firstly what happened jail authorities were responsible not the government and whole nation and our media was really positive because they condemned the violence but your government has made it their policy every terrorist who belongs to India is a national hero for you all taliban terrorist or any terrorist never was never will be a hero for any of Pakistani and you started the Kasab discussion why his body was not given to his family for proper funeral why his family was informed after he was hanged to death? and sarbajit singh was a convicted murderer a terrorist you all made him a hero thats the respect Indians and your government have for life of a Pakistani.
    Kasab was hanged in November 2012 and attack happened in April 2013 and attack on Sanaullah happened in May 2013 too i think you should think who is running a tit for tat race the difference in all three can prove my point very well.Recommend

  • heera

    @Saira Saeed: No,you r wrong.I went through many of comments on The express tribune.All were very happy and satisfied after his death.On times of India where no moderation is done for comments ,your fellow countrymen crossed all the limits.If those were the views of English speaking Pakistanis ,I wonder what were the views of illiterate one.Recommend

  • Saira Saeed

    our government didnt declare Kasab a national hero and he was a convicted murderer the way he died was wrong really very wrong but still we cant free a terrorist just in name of some “aman ki asha” when India cant even inform Kasab’s family about the date he was hanged in time and i think this blog and many blogs like this are written by Pakistanis who are not satisfied with what happened.Recommend

  • Denis

    This is a sad event and condemnable!! I as an Indian believe that we must just be human and not hate.. Its only then we can lead to eventual peace..Recommend

  • Denis

    The truth behind sarabjit may never be known.. But an eye for an eye is not an answer. I am an indian an condemn both these incidents.. Lets maintain peace brothers,, not hate!!Recommend