The Punjab government has devised a stricter policy for granting better jail facilities to prominent prisoners, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The new policy imposes 15 tough conditions, impossible for most inmates to fulfill, an official requesting anonymity said on Saturday.
Previously, there were 105 prisoners (under-trial, convicted and condemned) enjoying B-class facilities in 32 jails across the province. After the implementation of the new policy, only two more prisoners were granted better facilities, making the total 107. Surprisingly, no one was granted A-class facilities.
Prominent among those who were denied even B-class facilities in jail are former federal religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazami, former director-general Hajj Rao Shakeel, former president Bank of Punjab Hameesh Khan and other BoP scam accused Skeikh Afzal, Skeikh Nisar, Sheikh Irfan, Syed Sabtainul Hassan (Double Shah) and an accused in the NICL scam, Chaudhary Monis Elahi.
But while the government toughened requirements for granting lenient facilities, all of them are unofficially enjoying superior-class facilities with the connivance of jail superintendants, a senior jail official confided to The Express Tribune.
He said that Anjum Aqeel, a PML-N lawmaker who is currently under-trial, was one of the two prisoners granted B-Class facilities in jail since the issuance of the new policy.
In the past, such facilities were granted over personal influence, social relations and on court orders, adding that as such there was no comprehensive policy to deal with this issue, the official added.
According to new policy, a causal prisoner holding a graduate degree from a recognised university or institution and owner of 100 acres of barani or 50 acres of irrigated land verified by the district officer, revenue, would be eligible for grant of superior class facilities.
An ordinary prisoner who owned comparable business and personal assets, as substantiated by the latest income tax returns would also be entitled for better class.
A habitual and professional criminal would not be granted any such facility.
Prisoners involved in heinous offences or terrorism or rape would not be eligible for better jail facilities. Prisoners involved in crimes included in the Women Protection Act of 2009, or Official Secrets Act of 1930, violence against Children under Child Protection Act, an offence of smuggling under Customs Act of 1969, abduction or kidnapping of any kind under sections 364, 364-A, 365-A of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The accused involved in massive bank fraud or embezzlement are not eligible for superior class. Accused involved in offences of blasphemy, dacoity, robbery or extortion or violence and hijacking are also not entitled for superior class in prison.
Criminals involved in substance abuse, subversion, espionage or anti-state acts is also not eligible for the same facility.
According to Pakistan Prison Rules of 1978, a prisoner could have gotten a separate room with a bath, provided a cot, chair and necessary sanitary appliances, allowed to make private cooking arrangements, wear own cloths and use personal bedding, besides allowing him to exercise in mornings and evenings. The prisoner also could have made separate cooking arrangements at their own expense.
Inmates in superior class are not required to perform menial duties.
According to official data, as many as 52,915 inmates were currently confined in jails across the province against a capacity of 21,524. In such overcrowded environments, superior class facilities were a real blessing, the official added.
A jail superintendent requesting anonymity said: “Mighty people in the outside world were also mighty in jails. They use all facilities beyond the ones recommended in the jail manual in connivance with jail authorities.”
Inspector-General, Prisons, Kokab Nadeem Warriach said that reports regarding granting B-class unofficial to prisoners were “incorrect and if it is so, it is not in my knowledge. Home department is the competent authority to granting facilities. The prisons department has no role in this regard.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31th, 2011.