An under-trial prisoner who had spent the last month and a half being taken back and forth between Kot Lakhpat Jail and the Model Town courts, without ever actually being produced before a magistrate so he could get bail, tried to hang himself in the court lockup on Tuesday.
This correspondent witnessed Hasrat Khan, who is accused of dacoity, climb up the lockup grill and hang himself from a chain dangling from above.
At first, the other prisoners in the lockup – there are close to 300 brought to the bakhshi khana of the Model Town courts every day – didn’t seem to notice. Then they saw Khan’s face turn blue, at which point they propped him up from underneath so he could breathe. He was not seriously hurt.
Khan later told The Express Tribune that this was the third time he had been brought to the Model Town courts because his case was scheduled for hearing, but he had never actually been produced before a magistrate.
He said that he was desperate to see his family and the only place he could see them was in court because they were not being allowed to see him in prison.
“The courts are the only place prisoners can meet their families. When a prisoner is being taken to the court from the bakhshi khana he generally has time to meet his family. I am not only being deprived of a chance to get bail but also seeing my family,” he said.
Khan said that he had begged police officials to produce him before a magistrate, but they demanded bribes in exchange. “Today I again asked them but they were in no mood to listen. So I decided it was better to die,” he said.
“Prisoners who bribe the officials are treated like officers and those who don’t have anything to give them are treated like animals.”
Other prisoners in the bakhshi khana, after they had saved Khan from his suicide attempt, had hurled abuse at the police, believing them responsible for his ordeal.
The schedule of cases to be heard each day is decided by court staff. Many prisoners said they believed the police acted in league with the officials to extract bribes from prisoners.
The police at the Model Town court lockup claimed that they did not know which magistrate Khan was supposed to be produced before.
Muhammad Muslim, who is in charge of the lockup, said that he did not know why Khan had not been produced before a magistrate.
He said that around 300 prisoners were brought there every day and not all could be produced before a judge.
He said the number of prisoners that could be taken to courts at any one time was limited by the number of handcuffs at the bakhshi khana. “We have only seven handcuffs for prisoners from Kot Lakhpat Jail and three for those from Camp Jail,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2011.
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