Prison brawl: Riot breaks out after cell phones confiscated

Inmates clash with the police, magistrate.


Shabbir Mir December 11, 2011

GILGIT: Jailed prisoners started a riot and injured a magistrate on Saturday after a blanket ban on cell phones in Gilgit’s sub-jail began being enforced.

Inmates smashed an empty teacup on a magistrate’s head when he tried to conduct a body search of inmates suspected of illegally using cell phones in prison, police and other sources said on Sunday. Prisoners also set furniture on fire and blocked police reinforcements from gaining access to the jail for over two hours.

Despite the ban, inmates were still using cell phones and when magistrate Muhammad Qurban conducted a raid including body searching inmates, one of them smashed an empty cup on his head, leaving him injured. He was later shifted to a hospital for treatment, but not without seizing a number of phones, leaving prisoners enraged. When police on duty retaliated, the convicts began torching furniture and other paraphernalia.

When inmates successfully prevented reinforcements from entering, the government sought help from clergymen to avoid bloodshed and diffuse the situation peacefully. After the delegation’s negotiation, police were allowed to enter the jail and the fires were extinguished by the fire brigade.

In July this year, authorities installed several jammers around both of the city’s jails to curb cell phone use. After finding that the jammers affected the services of all cellular networks outside of the jails as well, they were removed around two weeks later.

Gilgit Assistant Commissioner Usman Ahmed said that legally, inmates are entitled to accessing landline phones only, and even that must be in the presence of police officials, adding that this practice is used in jails all over the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2011.

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