SUKKUR: Several prisoners lost consciousness after the police hurled teargas shells and resorted to aerial firing during a search operation in Sukkur Central Jail-I on Saturday.
The operation, led by DPO Aitzaz Ahmed Goraya and DIG prisons Major (retd) Ghulam Hussain, was conducted by 1,200 policemen, with assistance from the Frontier Constabulary, after which 100 high-profile and dangerous prisoners were transferred to other jails.
The DPO told Express News that the operation was ordered by the provincial jail minister and the IG prisons because of reports that criminals were running gangs from jail. “Inmates were involved in plotting crimes, especially kidnappings for ransom, via cell phone,” he explained.
The police recovered hundreds of mobile phones, drugs, a dagger, a video cassette recorder and adult films from the possession of prisoners. These items are usually smuggled in by their relatives with the help of the jail staff.
The inmates resisted and tried to take the police hostage. They also set their sheets and clothes on fire. But the police managed to control them in time.According to the jail administration, the search operation will continue for two more days.
Meanwhile, the provincial jail minister, Muzzaffer Shujra said that search operations in sensitive prisons in the province were routine. According to the jail manual, the administration was duty bound to launch search operations and seize banned materials from the prisoners.
Goraya said that some prisoners were also blackmailing the jail authorities and they had formed a tight knit network with the rest of Sindh’s jails.
“If any official takes action against an inmate in one jail, the news would spread to other prisons where those prisoners would start protesting,” he said.
Central jail-I superintendent Nazeer Qazi explained that some prisoners were creating trouble in the jail and it was very difficult to control them. “Transferring them was the only solution.” He also said that the prisoners were being provided all of their rights as listed in the jail manual.
After the search operation, high-profile prisoners were transferred to other jails. Thirty-six prisoners were transferred to Badin Jail and 30 others were sent to Khairpur Jail. Fifteen inmates were moved to Sukkur Central Jail-II.
The jail was closed for the entire day and so visitors were not allowed. Lawyers of influential prisoners arrived at the jail and protested against the operation, calling it illegal. They said the search operation was a violation of human rights and they would file a case against it.
Part of the problem is that Sindh’s jails are overcrowded and understaffed. The prisoners are kept in barracks and not in cells as they are in other countries. A former IG prisons explained that it was too expensive for them to build cells.
Many prisoners are not convicted criminals but under-trial prisoners who are just waiting for a hearing in court.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2010.
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