LAHORE: The Punjab Prisons Department seems more interested in running its affairs by giving shoulder promotions to its officers rather than arranging mandatory promotion courses for them which is demoralizing the entire force and leaving the government servants with no other option but to indulge in "malpractices" to meet their ends.
Reliable sources in the Punjab Prisons told Business Recorder that all vacant posts from top to bottom are being filled by giving officers shoulder promotions or appointing them on OPS (on pay-scale) basis in sheer violation of a Supreme Court ruling.
Sharing details of the situation, the sources claimed that currently there are almost 37 posts lying vacant in the prisons department and Punjab Prisons IG Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig or the Punjab Home Department, the administrative body of the Punjab Prisons, has so far make no efforts to fill these posts.
According to the sources, there are a total 10 posts of Deputy Inspectors General (DIG) of prisons. Of them, five seats are held by grade-19 officers, including Salik Jalal, Tariq Barbar, Malik Mubashir, Rana Rauf and Shoukat Feroz. However, the other five DIGs are grade-18 officers and were appointed on OPS basis, they added.
Similarly, the sources said that there are 19 seats of Assistant Inspectors General of prisons (AIGs)/senior superintendents central jails and only one post was occupied by Rana Razaullah Khan, a grade-18 officer, while the rest of the seats are occupied by OPS officers. "There are nine central jails in Punjab and as per the rules, the head of these prisons must be a SSJ or AIG of grade-19," they added.
Moreover, there are a total of 50 seats of superintendent jails. Of them, over 28 seats were occupied by OPS officers, the sources revealed. The sources further said that there are 122 posts of Deputy Superintendent Jails (DSJs).
Of them, 40 seats are vacant and nearly 15 seats occupied by OPS officers, they said, adding that a total of 520 posts available for Assistant Superintendents Jails (ASJs) in the Punjab Prisons. "More than 300 well-educated ASJs recruited through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) have so far left their jobs due to lowest salary package as compared to other pillars of the criminal justice system and absence of well-defined promotion channel," the sources revealed.
To a query, the sources said that so far nearly 3,000 personnel have left the Punjab Prisons. "The most daunting task for the incumbent IG Prisons Mirza Shahid Saleem when he assumed the charge in Oct 2017 was that how to retain the existing force which was considering tendering mass resignations due to lack of facilities and rationalized promotion channel," they claimed.
The sources said that those who suffered the most are jail warders as they work 24/7 without national or religious holidays and their salary package is less than that of a police constable. "Becoming a head warder from jail warder takes 20 to 25 years which is a great injustice, especially in a disciplined force," they said, adding that even in the Pak Army, 10 holidays after a gap of three months are allowed to the personnel to go to their homes and spend some time with their families so that they could be relaxed mentally and physically.
"The concept of prisons is to transform hardened criminals into a useful organ of society but how can we do so since we are also trapped and fighting for our due rights," remarked a well-placed officer. He revealed that only a few warders and 30 out of 45 persons of a batch of ASJ recruited in 2007 have so far received promotion trainings around two years back and no mandatory training courses was arranged by the Inspectorate General of Punjab Prisons since then.
"We work 24/7 under threatening environment as we deal with hardened criminals and terrorists. The government without any shadow of doubt very much improved conditions of prisons but paid no attention to our miseries," he said, adding that meagre salary package, long duty hours in absence of any public holiday and absence of well-defined promotion policy leaving the officers with no other option but to indulge themselves into corrupt practices to "meet their ends".
When contacted, Punjab Inspector General for Prisons Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig while talking to Business Recorder acknowledged that one of his department's major issues in relation to retaining the existing strength of the force related to the promotions.
He said when he took charge as the IG Prisons everything was "very complicated" with regards to promotions. "At that time, the recruitment policy was that 70 percent people will be inducted directly through competitive exams and the 30 percent will be promoted from the department," he said.
Later on after thoroughly examining the complications arising, the IG said that he changed the policy and now only 30 percent people will be recruited directly while others will be given a chance of promotion. He claimed he also promoted several warders to the rank of head warders.
When asked about the mandatory promotion courses for the senior officers and their fate, the IG alleged that most of the senior officers are in litigation with each other and their issues can only be settled by superior courts.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021