A convicted Pakistani militant jailed in India died in hospital yesterday after being beaten by another inmate in an apparent revenge attack for the death of an Indian spy prisoner, threatening already fraught relations between the two nations.
The death of Sanaullah Haq, also known as Sanaullah Ranjay, came a week after an Indian farmer convicted of spying died in Pakistan, leading to furious protests in India and criticism of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government for going soft on its western neighbor.
“Although it’s scant consolation I’d like to offer a sincere apology to the family of Sanaullah Haq and my sympathies for their loss,” Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state where Haq was imprisoned, wrote on Twitter.
Pakistan, which is due to hold an election today, demanded an investigation into Haq’s death and said the attack was “a matter of deep concern.”
Indian Interior Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said Haq’s body would be returned to Pakistan.
Haq, 64, had been in and out of Indian jails since 1989 for spying and “subversive activities,” a senior police officer said. He was badly beaten last week in the prison gardens by a jailed Indian soldier, the prison superintendent said at the time, in an apparent revenge attack for the similar, fatal beating of Sarabjit Singh, the convicted Indian spy who died in Pakistan. Singh’s family says he was innocent.
Singh was given a formal funeral, including a 21-gun salute, by the government of the state of Punjab in his hometown close the border with Pakistan.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the partition of British-ruled India in 1947. They began a peace process in 2004 and have gradually improved trade ties, but remain deeply suspicious of each other.
The Pakistani government issued a travel advisory to its citizens on Tuesday, asking them to “exercise due caution and care” in India. It said the safety and security of Pakistani visitors in India, particularly those at an annual pilgrimage, could be in jeopardy.
Despite the recent strains, India-Pakistan relations have improved after nose-diving in 2008 when gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai in a three-day rampage that India blamed on a Pakistani militant group.
Nawaz Sharif, seen as the front-runner in Pakistan’s election race, said on Wednesday he would not allow militant groups to attack India from his country and would work to improve ties with rival New Delhi.