ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday inaugurated work on the long-awaited prison in the capital.
Spread over 90 acres in Sector H-16, the Islamabad Model Prison is estimated to cost the taxpayers Rs3.9 billion to lock up around 2,000 inmates.
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The government has allocated funds for the project in successive annual budgets over the past few years but had been unable to start work on it in earnest, until now that is.
While construction work on the facility was launched on Thursday, the authorities have yet to actually acquire the land to build an access road for the jail from the Kashmir Highway and officials dug up a mud track through the fields on an emergency basis for Thursday’s ceremony.
When Iqbal was told that locals are in the process of building homes on land meant to be used as for the access road since Capital Development Authority (CDA) had yet to acquire the land, the minister directed Islamabad Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Haider to solve the problem and submit a report.
Iqbal further directed the chief commissioner and others concerned to complete construction work on the prison by 2019.
Noting that they had allocated Rs8 million for the project in the current fiscal year, Iqbal assured that additional funds will be allocated for the project in the upcoming budget.
The facility, termed a model prison, is slated to serve as character building and reformation centre for criminals so that when they complete their sentences and return to the outside world, they do not opt for criminal activity again.
Plans for the jail include a host of facilities such as visitor rooms, investigation rooms, special courtrooms as well as rooms for conjugal visits. Unlike other jails in and around the country, they will have separate sections for housing under-trial inmates.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony, Iqbal stressed that instead of calling it a ‘model prison’ or even a ‘jail’, the facility should be called a ‘correctional centre’ where the focus should be on rehabilitating and reforming criminals.
Explaining the philosophy of calling it a ‘correctional centre’, Iqbal explained that sometimes people who get sent to jails come out as criminals because they are at times exposed to criminal networks in jails.
“A correctional centre completes the criminal justice system. It is not only a place where criminals are kept but it also provides for a centre to rehabilitate them,” he said.
Despite the fact that the capital was built over 50 years ago with its own police force and judicial system, it does not have a central prison. Instead, thousands of prisoners of Islamabad — whether sentenced or under trial —are kept in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail and sometimes in other jails of Punjab.
Every day, a large convoy of police vans has to travel around 75 kilometres to fetch around 1,500 under-trial inmates from the Adiala Jail to produce them before various courts in the capital. At the end of the hearing, they troop back to Rawalpindi.
This not only adds significant costs for the capital police but also poses a security risk.
Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Haider said a hospital, clinic and educational facilities will also be part of the model jail.
Fewer rainfalls contributing to lower levels in the capital’s main water reservoirs of Simly Dam and Khanpur Dam, consequently reducing the supply of water to the city, Iqbal said that the Council of Common Interest (CCI) had approved the use of water from the Indus River to meet the needs of the capital.
He also emphasized the need for sensitizing the people about the scarcity of water in the city, so that measures can be taken to stop wasting it.
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The interior minister, who also holds the portfolio of the planning minister, told the crowd that they were mulling plans of launching another Metro Bus project in the capital — this time along the Islamabad Expressway. Work on this project, he suggested, could start next year as he promised air-conditioned buses for the city.
Keeping in consideration, the extra load on existing hospitals in Islamabad, approval for building a new district hospital in the capital had been granted.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2018.