Jails serve as breeding ground for diseases

Dilapidated conditions, lack of reforms paint a sad picture for those in captivity

Wisal Yousafzai August 07, 2021


Under-trial prisoners constitute almost (if not more than) half of the prison population of the entire country. Not yet convicted of any offence, they still languish in Pakistan’s overcrowded prisons.

The situation is even worse in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) according to a report by the K-P Home Department which states that around 38 jails are working to accommodate 11,362 prisoners’ out of which 8,984 prisoner’s cases are pending in courts.

Zamarud Khan, an ex-prisoner, talking to The Express Tribune, recounted his days spent in Central Jail Peshawar, saying, “we were treated like chicken in the jail.”

The 15-year-old was of the view that it is hypocritical of the government to ask citizens to follow SOPs to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when hundreds of prisoners are locked up in a single barrack that has only the capacity to hold only 15 to 20 people.

Advocate Noor Alam Khan, president Voice of Prisoner K-P, seconded Zamarud while talking to The Express Tribune, stating that its a fact that the government has not established prisons in the province for the last few decades. “Prisoners’ rights are violated when we do not provide them essential services and overcrowd holding cells,” he added.

Noor said that apart from Covid, jails are hubs of various other diseases. “Lack of precautionary measures and health facilities at the jails expose other prisoners to carriers of hepatitis and HIV,” said Noor.

He was of the view that the superspreader had further burdened the K-P prison system as court proceedings were halted and cases were delayed as a result of which many awaiting release were still in captivity.

Shafi Ullah Khan, Special Assistant of CM on Prisons, did not agree with all the doom-and-gloom surrounding K-P’s prisons. While talking to Express Tribune he indicated an awareness of the overcrowded prisons and assured that jail reforms were on the way.

“The government has recruited more staff and established health units in all jails of K-P where every health facility will be provided to prisoners. We are also working to separate serious terrorists from ordinary prisoners and are working to establish a separate jail for them in the province,” he informed this correspondent.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2021.


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