Leaky jails, vanishing inmates

It appears that post to their escape they stayed in several parts of Pakistan but may now be in Afghanistan

Editorial August 22, 2017
Two incarcerated under-trial prisoners broke out of Central Jail, Karachi on June 13. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD SAQIB/EXPRESS

It is deeply worrying that the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) that is investigating the escape of two members of the banned group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has little clue as to their whereabouts. It appears that post to their escape they stayed in several parts of Pakistan but may now be in Afghanistan. The evidence for this is that one of the pair called his family using a SIM card of Afghan origin. This in itself is not proof positive as Afghan SIMs operate within Pakistan borders, but it is a fair indicator of where his support comes from.

The two men escaped on June 13th, almost certainly with the collusion of prison staff, a dozen of whom including the superintendent, his deputy and an assistant superintendent were at first suspended and then arrested for negligence. The men had support from other high-profile prisoners and the picture that emerges is one of a prison system that is corrupt from top to bottom. The impunity with which prisoners can operate was highlighted in Karachi jail by a recent rummage raid by the Rangers that netted hundreds of illicit TV’s, mobile phones and a range of other luxury good that prisoners ought to be deprived of.

It is against that background that the CTD has to operate, and there is talk of diplomatic channels being used to locate the men but this is in reality a faint hope. With the penal system overloaded extremist individuals and groups have no difficulty in playing the system and hiding in plain view, sheltered by sympathisers in the community. Agencies like the CTD are up against a range of groups that are better resourced, considerably richer and more flexible operationally. There are areas where the CTD cannot go. Terrorism and extremism flourish in enabling environments, and until the seed-beds that nurture them are streilised these evil flowers will continue to bloom.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2017.

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