EDITORIAL: A major concern about what happened at a Rawalakot jail in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is the ease with which 19 dangerous prisoners, six of them on the death row, made good their escape in broad daylight – between 2:00 and 2:30 pm.

As per the initial information shared by the district commissioner and superintendent of police, one of the inmates, Ghazi Shahzad, detained last year by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) along with three others, asked the duty guard to remove a buttermilk drink glass from outside his cell.

When he came close the prisoner overpowered him, snatched the keys from him, and unlocked other cells helping at least 20 inmates to come out and make their way towards the main gate where somebody threw down a pistol from the roof, which they used to break open, where they faced small resistance. All of them got away except one who was wounded and later died.

It is worth noting that only last month, i.e., on June 15, the AJK High Court had approved the transfer of the escapees’ ringleader Shahzad’s case from the Poonch Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) to Mirpur ATC because the Poonch jail was very unsafe for hardened criminals — actually terrorists.

The Rawalakot prison, say reports, is also in a dilapidated condition, and that a plan is in the works to build a new one on the city’s outskirts. The incident, nonetheless, had nothing to do with poor state of the prison structure, as the following details indicate.

The sentry supervising violent extremists was overwhelmed by just one prisoner without firing a single shot. Apparently, he was unarmed. Then the escapees reached the exit gate unchallenged, where someone was at the ready to drop them a pistol with which to burst it open.

All of this shows the presence of terrorist sympathizers among the jail staff, which is why immediately after the incident the government suspended several prison officials, and also removed the Special Home Secretary who acted as ex-officio inspector general of prisons.

An inquiry committee has also been formed to identify officials and any other person(s) responsible for negligence of their duties or assisting the prisoners, as well as to determine the factors that led to the jailbreak.

Additionally, Chief Justice of the AJK High Court has been requested to constitute a judicial commission to probe this grave matter.

It may be recalled that back in 2012 in a brazen attack on central jail in Dera Ismail Khan, the TTP terrorists had freed about 175 inmates, including 35 notorious militants. In that incident, though, despite being outgunned the police had put up strong resistance, killing at least five militants.

Four policemen also lost their lives. That should have served as an instructive lesson not only for all relevant authorities in Rawalakot holding high profile violent extremists, but also intelligence agencies.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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