“Civil society should focus on under-trial prisoners and should launch initiatives that will enable them to become productive and law-abiding citizens,” Jail Reforms Committee secretary Zaryab Musarrat on Saturday.
Addressing a meeting at Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI), she said there were 88,000 prisoners in Pakistan, out of which 80 per cent were under trial. “We must focus on adequate reforms which will equip them with proper education and skills,” she said. “The situation in prisons is quite dire,” she said. “Inmates are offered food but are treated like slaves.”
“They are not given proper medical attention despite availability of facilities,” she said. She said prison officials often cited scarcity of funds as their excuse for ignoring prison rules.
“All prisoners must have a medical examination and all jails should have facilities for this,” she said.
She said that she would request the chief justice of Pakistan to direct the government to ensure provision of necessary funds in this regard.
“Meanwhile, civil society should play its role for provision of health and education facilities,” she said.
She appreciated the move by the FCCI, the Government College University and Allama Iqbal Open University to provide free education to inmates and said that the FCCI should also launch an income-generation programme for the prisoners.
She said the central jail had an obsolete loom for manufacturing of mats. She said that there should be a system in which marketable products could be prepared and revenue could be shared by inmates.
She said that she would explain in detail the state of affairs in Faisalabad jail in her monthly report to the chief justice. Earlier, in his welcome address, FCCI president Chaudhary Muhammad Nawaz said that the business community of Faisalabad would make arrangements for mandatory medical tests for every inmate as per jail rules.
He criticised the culture perpetuated in prisons, saying inmates were oppressed physically but mentally.
“This is a lasting legacy of the colonial rule,” he said.
“We should make concerted efforts to transform prisons into reform houses by extending education and health facilities along with psychological counselling,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2016.
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