Pak: Militants ‘virtually’ running Karachi Central Prison, says inquiry report

11 July 2017 No Comment

by Imtiaz Ali in Dawn, July 11th, 2017
KARACHI: An inquiry into the recent jailbreak by two high-profile militants of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has revealed that some militants belonging to banned outfits were virtually running the affairs of the Central Prison Karachi by imposing their will on jail staff who follow their instructions due to fear or incompetence, it emerged on Monday.

Sources quoting the report of the inquiry conducted by the Counter-Terrorism Department of police told Dawn that the probe into the escape of LJ militants exposed some “incidents of deliberate and systematic intimidation” on part of certain prisoners towards jail authorities.

The jail officials were found ‘powerless’ to ensure discipline for fear of being targeted by the accomplices of such militants, the sources said.The hardcore militants, Shaikh Mohammad Mumtaz alias Firaun and Mohammad Ahmed alias Munna, who had been arrested four years ago by the CTD for killing more than 60 people including several police officials, workers of a political party and Shia community members, had escaped from the judicial complex inside the Karachi prison last month.

The CTD found that the jail authorities were ‘mostly content’ to become part of the system of pervasive corruption that underlined every single activity within the jail. “Thus, the jail has imposed a virtual caste system, with the prisoners who can intimidate or threaten the jail authorities, like members of political parties or Jihadis, enjoying virtually every privilege under the sun and all the other prisoners having to pay through their nose for everything.

‘Prisoners acting as court clerks, helpers and even assisting in locking and unlocking of the wards’

“The senior jail authorities and specially the superintendent have totally abdicated their responsibility with regard to imposing authority,” said sources privy to the report.

The outcome of such state of affairs was that the prisoners were acting as court clerks, helpers and even assisting in locking and unlocking of the wards.

The CTD report revealed that certain prisoners belonging to militant outfits and political parties had been made ‘zimmedar’ (responsible for administrating their wards) who operated like ‘virtual dons’, controlling their networks even outside the jail and getting every conceivable facility inside the prison.

“High-profile prisoners resultantly can do what they like; they can go to the court complex without judicial summons, they can go into other wards when they feel like it, and it is this complete laxity that has led to the situation, where on June 13, two prisoners went to the judicial complex, one of whom did not even have a court date, stayed there, cut the bars of a courtroom and escaped.”

Furthermore, the CTD said it was the complete command failure and abdication of responsibility of the jail staff that the escape of the two high-profile prisoners went unreported until the next morning because “even the simple and crucial act of counting the prisoners has been outsourced to the prisoners themselves.”

There was certainly ‘gross negligence’ on the part of the jail authorities behind the escape of two UTPs, but the CTD disclosed that this was not a new phenomenon, as some arrested jail staff told the inquiry team that such state of affairs had been persisting for the past 15 to 20 years.

“So deeply has this become institutionalised that in fact, one can question whether there was any point in sending high-profile prisoners to jail, because being in prison makes them safe from further prosecution and allows them to continue their activities without fear of the law enforcers.”

Delayed justice

The CTD report also revealed that there were many UTPs whose cases have been pending before the ATCs for years, thus such prisoners were not particularly concerned about being convicted of heinous crimes. It found that one of the escaped UTPs, Shaikh Mumtaz, was arrested in 2013 and was challaned in several cases before ATC but none has been decided so far.

Another high-profile LJ militant, Hafiz Qasim Rasheed, who was the roommate of escaped Shaikh Mumtaz, had allegedly threatened jail officials, police officers, witnesses and even judicial staff openly with no one able to do anything about it while his cases were pending in courts for past many years.

Sarmad Siddiqui, another high-profile prisoner who was allegedly involved in the Karachi airport attack, was another self-styled ‘zimmedar’ of his ward in the jail, the sources disclosed to Dawn.

The CTD also alleged that MQM militants such as Minhaj Qazi also operated as ‘dons’ in the prison.

The department recommended to the provincial authorities that such high-profile prisoners be kept in ‘isolation’ and under high security but instead they were allegedly giving ‘instructions’ to the jail staff in the prison.

‘Defects’ in FIR

Regarding the registration of an FIR against 11 jail officials on the complaint of former DIG prisons Ashraf Nizamani who was later suspended over charges of negligence, the CTD report said it appeared as if the jail authorities had been selective in fixing the responsibility of the jailbreak.

“Many of those arrested ostensibly have no reason to have been charged whereas several others, whose names were not included in the FIR, have a clear responsibility for the negligence but were not nominated.”

The CTD believed that such jail officials were “saved because they had powerful patrons within the prison department.”

The CTD recommended to the authorities concerned to refer cases of such high-profile UTPs to military courts for trial and significantly expand the number of such cases.

“It is necessary for a larger number of, especially Jihadi militants, to be sent to military courts to ensure speedy trial and convictions,” recommended the CTD.

Besides, the CTD also proposed the creation of a high-security prison in a remote region of Sindh, where high-profile prisoners could be held in isolation from other prisoners and from Karachi.

Meanwhile, Additional IG CTD Dr Sanaullah Abbasi told Dawn that the CTD’s report about the jailbreak was submitted to the chief minister and the provincial minister for prisons. It was on the basis of the findings that the DIG prisons was suspended and it was for the first time that such action was initiated.

The investigation of the jailbreak is still on and the CTD has succeeded in getting physical remand of three jail staffers for interrogation, according to the CTD chief.

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