LAHORE: Punjab jail authorities are considering an offer of the Pakistan Rangers for commando training of warders as a counter-terrorism measure in the wake of militant attacks on jails across the country.
According to intelligence reports, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other banned militant outfits can attack at least five central jails of Punjab to set their men free, as they did in Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan.
Sources in the Punjab Prisons Department told Dawn that efforts had been initiated to get government’s nod for commando training for jail warders. They said Rangers Director General Maj-Gen Hilal Husain had recently offered Prisons Inspector General Mian Farooq Nazeer to impart commando training to jail warders at Rangers Headquarters.
Sources said the department was planning to send at least 200 warders in the first batch for three-month training in addition to their theoretical training at the Punjab Prisons Training Institute, Lahore.
They said the first batch would most probably start training after September 2013 and around 800 warders would be trained in a year.
As militant threats to some Punjab jails housing up to 400 prisoners linked to sectarianism and terrorism are growing with the every passing day, jail authorities are seeking help from Rangers and police for security and training. Sources say as some batches of jail warders are getting training at the Attock Artillery Centre and Lahore’s Elite Police Training School, Rangers deployment has been completed at outer cordons of Rawalpindi’s Adiala Central Jail, Faisalabad Central Jail and Dera Ghazi Khan Central Jail in the first phase. The Quick Response Force of Rangers will be on standby to deal with any incident at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Central Jail.
The sources say the Punjab government has so far not entertained Multan, Bahawalpur and Mianwali central jails’ request for Rangers deployment.
A senior jail official told this reporter that up to 2,000 jail warders, 166 assistant superintendents and all deputy superintendents and superintendents got one-month gunfire training at Attock Artillery Centre. As many as 89 jail warders got six-month training at the Elite Police Training School. He said the department handed over newly-bought LMGs, AK-47 and G-3 rifles to the force during training.
Prisons Inspector General Nazeer said Rangers’ offer for commando training for jail warders was being discussed. He said the commando training would be in addition to two other trainings being imparted to 10,000 jail warders.
He said practical training of jail officials in Punjab started last year and it would take some years to convert them into a full-fledged fighting force.