In a rare show of camaraderie not witnessed for several years in the Punjab Assembly, the ruling SAD-BJP and opposition Congress MLAs unanimously passed a resolution in the special session of the Assembly, declaring Sarabjit Singh a national martyr while seeking an independent probe into his death by an international body.
Refraining from attacking the UPA government at the Centre for its alleged weak-kneed response to the issue, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said the Union government should build international pressure on Pakistan for a thorough probe into the circumstances of Sarabjit’s death.
“This House also asks the Central government to initiate strong and effective diplomatic efforts to ensure the safety of prisoners belonging to India and of Indian origin, who are lodged in the prisons of Pakistan or other countries,” he added, moving the resolution.
Though SAD and BJP leaders, including Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, had been till Thursday crying hoarse over the the alleged negligent attitude of the UPA on the issue of safety of Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails, on Friday, they chose to steer clear of making any statement in the House that could raise the heckles of the Congressmen.
The Congress, on Thursday, had demanded that SAD-BJP should not play politics on Sarabjit’s death. Sources in SAD that after a lengthy debate in a meeting of the two parties, it was decided that on the day of Sarabjit’s cremation, all parties should take a conciliatory approach and put up a united foot forward pressing for an independent probe into his death.
As a result, though being in almost full attendance, Congress MLAs did not get to say much during Friday’s special session where two sittings lasted for less than 15 minutes. The session began at 10 am with reading out of obituary references by Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal. When the obituary reference was being read out for Sarabjit Singh, Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar said Sarabjit was a martyr of the “nation” and not just the “community” as had been read out. The Speaker assured him that the word would be changed before it is sent to the bereaved family.
Other than Sarabjit, the Assembly passed obituary references for former Rajya Sabha MP Surjit Singh Atwal, former minister Romesh Chander Dogra and singer Shamshad Begum. The House also observed a two-minute silence as a mark of respect for the departed souls.