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EDITORIAL: In its report prepared for the attention of Punjab Chief Minister and Inspector General of Prisons, the Provincial Intelligence Centre (PIC) paints a deeply disturbing picture of prevailing conditions in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail. According to the report, malpractices in exchange for bribes are rampant, noting that the inmates who grease the palms of the prison staff, especially those connected to land mafia, are given VIP treatment.

It cites the example of some 700 convicted prisoners brought to the jail factory on a daily basis for work, as many as 200 of them bought exemption from labour for Rs 5000, each. Banned items such as cash, comfort foods cigarettes, cell phones, and even narcotics are freely supplied to those who can afford to pay the right price. In the jail hospital prisoners get facilities/relief, including bail on medical grounds on payment of Rs. 25,000 to 30,000.

According to the report, taking notice of a prisoner torture video honourable Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court Athar Minallah had visited the jail along with two sessions judges to inquire about the case. After the visit Deputy Inspector General of Prisons for the region transferred 10 head warders, 17 warders, and suspended six officials of the jail. Yet as the report found that has had little effect. The situation in other prisons across the country is not any different.

The PIC has recommended that a fact-finding committee headed by an officer not less than the rank of an additional secretary be formed to investigate the affairs of the jail and take strict action against corrupt elements.

It is worth noting that in an earlier instance, acting on a writ petition filed by an Adiala Jail inmate complaining of vision impairment due to negligence of prison authorities, the Islamabad High Court had ordered formation of a commission headed by the then minister for human rights, Dr Shireen Mazari, to investigate different aspects of the problem, review the prison rules and other relevant laws so as to fulfil the commitments of the State in the light of the Constitution, internationally recognised standards and guidelines, and propose solutions to human rights violations in jails.

The commission had proposed several improvements in the existing rules and practices. Sadly, things remain the same. The present report mentions a petition filed last month by the mother of a 21-year-old prisoner alleging that her son was stripped naked and subjected to torture by officials demanding Rs 5000 bribe in return for relief from pain they inflicted upon him.

The malpractices in our jails are symptomatic of financial corruption which is pervasive in all government departments. Officials suspended for taking bribes manage to get themselves reposted to the same ‘lucrative’ positions on the basis of connections with higher authorities. Unless and until the Aegean stables of financial corruption in high places are cleaned, those belonging to poor and vulnerable sections of society will continue to get a raw deal from the system.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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