Sindh’s prisons give inmates a break from TV

Hafeez Tunio July 25, 2010

KARACHI: There will be no more ‘Desperate Housewives’ or talk shows for prisoners in Sindh’s jails where cable television was cut off at noon on Sunday.

The decision was based on recent rioting. “We have instructed all the superintendents to cut off their TV because it encourages prisoners to protest against the administration,” said DIG Prisons major (retd) Ghulam Hussain Khoso.

It seemed as if something more was afoot. One inmate told The Express Tribune that the administration was doing it to cut them off from the outer world. “They are preparing for a search operation in Sukkur jail,” he said. “They have switched off their gas connections and are not giving proper rations to [weaken] 1,250 inmates for the last three days.”

Earlier, searches have turned up cell phones, DVD players and weapons. Inmates, especially hardened criminals, orchestrate kidnappings for ransom and other crimes from inside their jails. Cell phones are smuggled in either by relatives or in collusion with the jail staff.

Television access meant that prisoners were able to tell if there was a crackdown in another jail. They would then riot in their own prison, set their beddings on fire and create a ruckus on the roofs of their barracks.

One prisoner said that they wanted search operations to be conducted in the presence of the media.

“The [jail administration] wants to beat us black and blue as they have done with our friends in Sukkur where the DIG Prisons shaved their heads, beards and moustaches, which is unethical and a violation of human rights,” he claimed.

Prisoners continued a protest for the fifth day at Hyderabad Central Jail on Sunday. “We demand the president to take notice of this - he’s been in jail himself,” said inmate Arshad Buledi while talking to The Express Tribune. “Our only source of entertainment has been shut off.”

According to him, they listen to the recitation of the Quran early morning and later, till about 11 pm, they watch different entertainment programmes.

“There are around 22 televisions in different barracks and the prisoners mostly watch news and music channels such as KTN, Kashish, Express and Sindh TV,” said Ahmed Buriro, a prisoner at the Larkana Central Jail.

Another prisoner, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune that there was mutual understanding between inmates in each the barrack over watching channels. “I get up early in the morning at 6 am and switch on KTN for the latest news,” he said. “No one controls the remote. It rotates from one person to other. But with consensus we watch Indian movies, musical programmes and other entertainment channels.”

He said that the hunger strike was to protest the “unethical” behaviour of the police against the prisoners at Sukkur jail. “If there are troublemakers the jail officials should move them, but putting them in water tubs and shaving their beards is against ethics,” he said.

Sukkur jail I has moved 155 particularly troublesome prisoners and has swept the place for cell phones, said its superintendent Nazeer Qazi.

A prisoner at Shikarpur district jail said that search operations are just a way to pressure prisoners to cough up bribes. “They do it just to five to ten thousand rupees from us,” he said.

Cutting off their television was bad enough, but this inmate said that they were not being allowed to meet friends and relatives.

“In such a situation we have not other option but to protest against the attitude of the jail staff.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2010.


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