KARACHI: Suspected murderers, rapists and terrorists are inmates of the Central Jail, Karachi. Or, they are supposed to be. Around 40 convicted and under-trial prisoners have been living a life of luxury at various public and private hospitals in blatant violation of prison department laws.
Infamous convicts, like the murderers of university student Shahzeb Khan and A-Level student Suleman Lashari, have been living in private wards of hospitals that they have turned into their homes away from home.
Some prisoners have even been ‘admitted’ to private hospitals for months at a time. According to an official letter written by Central Jail, Karachi Superintendent Hasan Sahito, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, around 16 under-trial prisoners were referred to government and private hospitals for expert opinions, minor diseases or medical check-ups a year ago but have not returned to the jail.
The list of prisoners living at the hospitals reveal that Shahrukh Jatoi, who along with three other accomplices killed Shahzeb Khan in December, 2012, lives at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). He has been awarded the death sentence but has never lived in the prison cell designated for death row prisoners. His friend, Nawab Sajjad Talpur who is a co-accused in the same case, also lives in JPMC’s special ward where he is treated more like a special guest than a cold blooded killer.
“Shahrukh’s parents told the court that their son is suffering from depression in jail and needs proper medication in a hospital,” said an official of the jails department. Recently, a video of Shahrukh sitting in an air-conditioned room playing video games went viral on social media.
“His family pays the jail authorities more than their expectation,” sources said, adding that the Jatoi family, who are business tycoons, have recently greased the palms of jail officers, paying a handsome sum for the renovation of the jail’s barracks and offices. “They know how to appease the jail authorities. As a result, Shahrukh Jatoi was given a separate room in the jail, but now he lives as if he is back at his own home,” disclosed the sources.
Despite repeated attempts to contact the Jatoi family, they could not be reached. However, one relative said Shahrukh was admitted to the hospital on the court’s order.
Further, under trial prisoner at the central jail, Salman Abro, the son of a police SSP who, along with his guards, killed Suleman Lashari on Khayaban-e-Shamsheer in May, 2014, lives in a ward of the National Institute of Cardio Vascular Disease (NICVD). He is barely 19 years old and has been admitted to the hospital for the past year for complaints of chest pains. “He was referred to the hospital for investigation but has not returned yet,” an official of the jail, requesting anonymity, said.
According to the letter, two senior police officers, Police AIG Fida Hussain Shaikh and his SSP Tanvir Ahmed Tahir, who were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a Rs50 million corruption case, also live at the JMPC and NICVD. They have cited the reasons of asthma, hypertension and breathing issues as the basis of their admission.
According to jail rules, no prisoner can be admitted at a private hospital until a court orders it, but a few convicts who obtained permission for consultant opinions and medical check-ups have made permanent abodes in Hill Park hospital, Liaquat National Hospital, Qamarul Islam Hospital and Health Vision Hospital.
“One of the [incarcerated] businessmen who live at a private hospital also frequently visits his home in Karachi. No one cares,” sources revealed.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Jails and Law Minister Ziaul Hasan Lanjar said that he has ordered an inquiry into the matter of why under-trial prisons have been admitted in private hospitals. “Normally, the court orders us to refer these inmates to public sector hospitals. We can’t refuse the judges, but prisoners living at private hospitals for years is against the rules,” he said. “Prisoners facing medical problems can only be admitted to public hospitals” the minister explained.
When questioned about the inmates who have been admitted to public hospitals for months, he said his hands were tied. “What can we do if NAB or the court asks jail authorities to refer these prisoners [to hospitals]? It will be contempt of court if we don’t comply with their orders,” said Lanjar.