A prisoner of Central Jail Gilgit was injured and over 15 barracks were gutted in a fire set by rioting inmates on Wednesday, sources privy to the developments told The Express Tribune.
The sources said that the fire broke out in an under-construction portion of the jail and spread quickly. It took firefighters more than two hours to bring the flames under control.
“I first saw a huge could of smoke over the jail at about 2pm,” said an eyewitness. The smoke cloud could also be seen from Jutial, about 12km from the jail, where the inmates were previously kept in a makeshift arrangement when the central jail was short on space.
Sources said that the inmates were enraged after jail authorities confiscated cell phones from them on Tuesday night. The inmates shouted slogans against the authorities and demanded that they be shifted to the makeshift facility in Jutial. The sloganeering continued in the morning, but was later focused on other inmates as they got divided into two groups. The heated exchange of words led to a riot, during which a few inmates torched a barrack.
A senior jail official, Usman Ahmed, confirmed that it was the exchange of harsh words between the inmates that led to the conflict. He, however, differed on the scale of the fire, saying that only 10 barracks were gutted. Ahmed said that some of the inmates have been shifted to another holding facility and an inquiry has been initiated into the incident.
In December last year, prisoners in Central Jail Gilgit went on the rampage after a blanket ban on cell phones began being imposed. The prisoners injured a magistrate and set furniture on fire. They even blocked police reinforcements from gaining access to the jail for over two hours.
In July last year, authorities installed several jammers around both of the city’s jails to curb cell phone use. After finding that the jammers affected the services of all cellular networks outside of the jails as well, they were removed around two weeks later.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.
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