KARACHI: Two under trial prisoners (UTPs) who escaped from Karachi Central Jail recently had been planning their elaborate getaway for months and eventually, on June 13, succeeded in doing so, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Sheikh Mumtaz and Ahmed Khan, both suspected hardcore militants of the banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), managed to flee from the lock-up at the newly built Anti-Terrorism Courts’ Judicial Complex.
It is said that the suspects had conducted a reconnaissance of the jail premises before attempting their escape. The influence of the LeJ both at the jail and over the wardens apparently contributed to their successful getaway. Yet, outside help cannot be ruled out just yet. “They even had a map of the jail. Both insiders and outsiders were involved in their escape,” said Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) incharge Raja Umar Khattab. Officials believe that the entire plan was orchestrated by outside sources.
The suspects were incarcerated in cell numbers 25 and 26. Mumtaz was the incharge of his cell and was provided an inmate as his ‘khidmatgaar’ to cater to his whims. As an incharge, Mumtaz was responsible for the welfare of a number of prisoners and was given considerable responsibility.
According to a source in the CTD, jail staffers and even high ranking officials do not intervene in the matters of such hardcore militants within the jail. The militants threaten the staffers’ families, spreading fear among both low and high ranking officers.
“The reality inside the jail is [not indicative] of the fact that these militants are incarcerated. Instead, they virtually have the jail staffers at their disposal. No one usually objects to their activities and they are free to roam inside the jail premises,” Khattab explained.
On June 13, Mumtaz accompanied Khan to the Judicial Complex on the pretext that the former had a hearing at an ATC, he said. No one questioned whether there even was a trial or why Mumtaz was going along. The CTD investigators questioned the jail officials suspended and arrested following the UTPs’ escape.
“They were sent to the complex, saying that they were going for a hearing and in the evening, when we went to their cell and did not find them there, their comrades told us they were sleeping,” said Khattab, quoting the arrested jail officials. The officer believes that the arrested jail personnel were lying, as they were also involved in the escape.
The Judicial Complex is situated in the outer section of the jail. It is a multi-storey building that has two gates: one for the lawyers, judges and public and the other for inmates. The inmates’ gate is made of iron rods covered with steel net. Here the inmates wait for their turn to appear in the court. They are usually escorted by one or two guards.
“In this case, Mumtaz and Khan were escorted by no guards as per the statements recorded. They went to the court themselves. However, this contention raises eyebrows because the suspects were also provided chairs to sit on during their wait,” Khattab said, hinting at the involvement of the jail guards.
“The UTPs did not escape the jail by climbing the walls, as that is not possible. They used the main gate of the jail to flee.”
“The suspects had two blades and a pair of pliers that they used to cut the iron rods and net to make a space of 11×18 inches [in the prisoner’s gate to the complex]. They were even provided razors to shave their beards,” he explained.
He said that after leaving the judicial complex, the convicts exited the jail via the main gate. “The staff posted at the jail’s main gate do not check the identities of people leaving the jail. They are only allowed to check the identity of people entering the jail,” disclosed a senior jail official. “The staff colony is also inside the jail and number of labourers are working inside the under construction courts. The UTPs took advantage of this and had already been changed their clothes, which is how they easily exited the jail using the main gate.”
CTD investigators said that they were searching for the escaped UTPs and so far they had not uncovered any major clues about their whereabouts.
Law and Jails Minister Ziaul Hassan Lanjar also admitted that insiders were involved in helping the UTPs escape from the jail. He said they have been arrested and cases have been registered against them. Lanjar said he has ordered extraordinary security for jails throughout the province.