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Karachi central prison: A tinderbox of expanding militant networks

Updated July 05, 2013
Security personnel at the central prison in Karachi after a hand grenade attack. — Photo by Online
Security personnel at the central prison in Karachi after a hand grenade attack. — Photo by Online

KARACHI: Even with increased outreach of militant networks from within Karachi’s central prison, most search operations carried out inside the jail are done without scanners or metal detectors, the stated reason for which is primarily financial constraints and a “lack of response from the concerned department”.

This also explains the planning of the attack on Sindh High Court’s Justice Maqbool Baqar from inside Karachi Central Jail and the subsequent recovery of a number of cell phones and other devices in the June 29 search operation led by Sindh Rangers.

The operation established that the attack on Justice Baqar was indeed planned from inside the central prison and further revealed that security checks inside prison cells have largely remained lax.

The central jail houses over 4,800 prisoners and the figure includes 200 key members from militant organisations, such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jundallah which seem to be expanding their networks inside the prison.

Militant networks mushroom, collaborate

Speaking to regarding jailed members of militant organisations, former Special Investigation Unit (SIU) chief, SP Khurram Waris, said the most dangerous among these were the ones associated with LJ and TTP. He said the two groups joined forces and have been operating in collaboration since the past one year in order to target high profile figures from different professions.

Some of these prisoners include Mohammad Ajmal alias Akram Lahori, Mufti Shahid and LJ’s ameer in Pakistan, Attaur Rahman Bukhari — all languishing in jail after being awarded death sentences.

Waris said he had no doubt that the recent attack on Justice Baqar was planned from inside Karachi’s central prison.

“These people have a full-fledged network running from inside prisons; right from visitors bringing in ‘messages’ that can’t be discussed on cell phones to finalising finances for attacks through cell phones that are somehow brought in. The foundations of most attacks are laid inside prison cells,” Waris told

Cell phones and ‘more’

Such adept planning and organisation as was seen in the attack on Justice Baqar does not seem to have been done via cell phones alone. Security officials from within the central prison have said that material seized during the June 29 operation included not only mobile phones but also laptops and internet devices.

However, IG Prisons Nusrat Mangan continues to maintain his earlier statement that about six cell phones were seized during the “routine search operation” conducted by the paramilitary force.

Neither Mangan nor the Rangers spokesman therefore confirmed that a number of laptops and internet devices were also seized from the barracks of a few prisoners.

“The media reported a few things out of context which was not the case,” Rangers spokesman Major Sibtain told

Role of Rangers in June 29 action

Involvement of Rangers in search operations inside the city’s prison is fairly unusual. However, Mangan on his part clarified that senior police officials, including himself, had asked the paramilitary force to carry out the operation within the jail’s premises.

“Constables and security guards posted outside the prison cells had informed us that they had been receiving threats from the inmates. Keeping that in mind and the tip-off that the Rangers had received, we decided that an impartial force was needed to carry out the operation, with police working as a back-up.

“There was no conflict between the two forces as it has been made out to be,” he said.

The June 22 hand grenade attack outside the prison gates was also in connection with the threats that Mangan said jail staff had been receiving from imprisoned militants.

Lack of resources

Mangan, who says his staff is “under no pressure from anyone” over acting against threats of attacks, admits that when it comes to checking the prisoners or their visitors, prison operatives “lack adequate resources”.

Explaining further, he said most search operations carried out inside the prison are done without scanners or metal detectors. The reason for this is primarily financial constraints and a “lack of response from the concerned department”.

When Consultant to the Sindh Government on Home Affairs, Sharfuddin Memon, was contacted in this regard, he said: “Lack of resources and corruption are among the problems we currently face,” adding that “jail reforms would solve most administrative issues”.

Whereas, Waris believes that until the sentences of convicted criminals are carried out, terror networks within jails would continue to mushroom.

The former SIU chief said most convicts, even with charges of targeted killing are released on bail without much investigation done into their backgrounds.

“In 2010, our team arrested two men on charges of murdering members of the Shia and Ahmedi communities. They were recently released,” he said.