SARGODHA: In Bhalwal 11 prisoners, scheduled to be presented before the court, managed to escape from the court’s adjoining waiting room.
The prisoners were being held under miscellaneous charges including multiple counts of murder, manslaughter, theft and others and were awaiting trial in the court. The inmates had been transported from the Shahpur jail. Bhalwal police brought the prisoners to the local tehsil court in the afternoon on May 18, 2010, and they were ordered to wait in the courts adjoining holding cell. The prisoners were kept in the holding cell for over an hour, when they broke a hole in the wall near the rest room and broke out one by one.
The prisoners broke out to find their accomplices waiting for them with a getaway car and motorcycles. RPO Javed Aslam, who had supervised the transport of the prisoners to the Bhalwal courts said that strict action would be taken against the guards on duty, who had failed to notice the escape of the prisoners. “These are hardened criminals and catching them again, will be twice as hard, seeing as they are probably on the lookout for the police this time around,” he said.
The prisoners include Abbas, Muhammad Aslam, Muhammad Qasim, Muhammad Akbar, Imtiaz Hussain, Muhammad Safdar, Sarfaraz, Muhammad Akhtar, Fayyaz and Ikftikhar. Between them, the convicted men were accused on six counts of murder, five robberies and 17 manslaughter cases. Sargodha district police officer (DPO) Dr Usman Anwar reached the scene and examined the waiting room and the damaged holding cell.
He said that special teams had been constituted for the arrest of the culprits, who were ‘seasoned criminals’ he said. “These teams will scour the district and apprehend these criminals,” he said. Anwar warned citizens to be on the lookout for the criminals, adding that some of the men were ‘extremely dangerous.’ Anwar said that the men had escaped with accomplices who had covered their faces with black cloth and were well armed. “It seems they were aware of the date of the hearing and the criminals had hatched the escape plan before hand.
That explains the level of coordination, as an entire entourage waited for the prisoners to escape the court,” he said. The police are holding the guards on duty in the court room, Sultan Sikandar and sub inspector Ejaz as responsible for the incident. “It is shameful, that the two guards failed to notice the escape of 11 men,” he said. “We suspect that the guards were either involved or were pressured by the prisoners somehow,” the DPO said, adding that a case had been registered against both guards in court and they had been taken into police custody.
Sargodha police has issued a statement and is planning to release of their sketches to the media, so that the public can assist in their re-capture. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken notice of the situation and has ordered that the criminals be arrested as soon as possible.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 19th, 2010.