National Assembly's human rights committee takes jail officials to task

Published: October 6, 2012
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In limbo: 12,297 of the total 14,000 prisoners in Sindh's jails are still under trial. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD SAQIB/EXPRESS

In limbo: 12,297 of the total 14,000 prisoners in Sindh's jails are still under trial. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD SAQIB/EXPRESS

KARACHI: National Assembly’s committee on human rights has given the jail department one month to improve living conditions in Sindh’s 24 prisons and wrap up all pending cases.

The committee’s chairman, MNA Riaz Fatyana, gave the orders during a meeting organised on Friday to discuss prisoners’ rights. When jail officials told him that 12,297 of the total 14,000 prisoners were still under trial, the minister said, “You have one month to dispose of the cases. We want a progress report on it,” he said.

The Inspector General of jails, Gulzar Channa shot back at him, saying, “Our job is to produce prisoners before the judges who are supposed to dispose of the case.” But the committee’s chairman said, “You take only the prisoners who grease your palms to court. There is rampant corruption in jails.”

IG Channa then tried to convince committee members that the welfare of the prisoners had been improved over the years. “Prisoners only used to get cooked lentils. But we are now serving them meat 16 times a month.”

Extrajudicial killings

The committee termed the deaths of seven prisoners inside Central Jail in Hyderabad as ‘extrajudicial killings’.  Law enforcers had shot them dead during an operation inside the facility in March 2011.

“Who gave you the authority to kill prisoners inside jail? Law enforcers should treat prisoners as human not animals,” said members of the committee. IG Channa said that the Sindh High Court had ordered the operation and that the dead men’s families had not been paid compensation as the case was still pending in court.

When the committee asked Channa about an investigation into the deaths, he said, “The prisoners had held a judge and police personnel hostage inside the jail. They had guns and were about to break the prison’s main gate.” Law enforcers later seized six TT pistols, two repeaters and 260 mobile phones from the inmates.

When MNA Dr Attiya Inayatullah, another member of the committee, asked IG IG Channa if any policeman had been injured during the tussle, he said, “No they didn’t because they were wearing bullet-proof jackets and helmets.” When MNA Fatyana asked Channa how the prisoners got a hold of weapons, he blamed it on the jail’s previous administration.

Members of the committee said that barbers shops, ration stores, newspaper stalls and post offices should be set up inside jails. The chairman added that every prisoner should have personal bank accounts so that he can transfer his earning into them. The prisoners should be given medical cards and have compulsory medical examinations, said the committee.

“We also recommend that a laboratory be established inside the jails,” said MNA Fatayana, adding that the government should provide free counselling services at every jail.

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