The absence of a jail in Swat, the largest district of Malakand Division, has created a multitude of problems for the people.
While relatives complain of high transport costs and the “sheer difficulty” of travelling to a different district to meet their dear ones in prisons, lawyers say they are overburdened with pending cases due to the lack of a jail in the district.
Saidu Sharif Jail, the lone penitentiary in Swat district built during the 1950s, was destroyed by the earthquake in 2005. The jail remains to be rehabilitated.
Although the government demolished the remaining building and announced to rebuild the jail, the project was not initiated owing to shortage of funds. Meanwhile, prisoners are being accommodated in Daggar and Timergara jails in Buner and Lowe Dir districts respectively.
“For a poor family like mine, it is an upheaval task to go to another district to see a relative in prison,” said Fazal Ghaffar, a resident of Khwazakhela, Swat, whose brother-in-law is being held in Timergara Jail. Ghaffar said a trip to Timergara costs around Rs2,000 which he cannot afford.
Lawyers claim that due to the lack of a jail in the district, it takes them weeks, and at times even months, to dispose a case that can otherwise be resolved in a day or two.
Lawyer and former Swat Bar Association President, Asghar Khan, said that bringing prisoners to courts from far-off areas daily is not only expensive but risky. “We can easily be attacked during the journey by outlaws wanting to help their convicts escape,” said explained.
According to police officials, the department spends around Rs600,000 per month on the transportation of prisoners.
When contacted, Swat District Coordination Officer Kamran Rehman said that the federal government has yet to authorise funds for the reconstruction of Saidu Sharif Jail. “In the meantime, we have started seeking help from the provincial government and the interior department. It is expected that the funds will be approved by next year,” he said.
Locals have appealed to the government to release funds for early reconstruction of Saidu Sharif Jail.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2012.