KARACHI: The Saturday murder of a senior jail official in the city took the death toll of the force over the past seven years in Sindh to 20, senior officials said.
They said the number of attacks on police vans carrying prisoners and the officials keeping custody of under-trial prisoners is in dozens and of late the Karachi Central Prison (KCP) has been attacked with bombs.
Mumtaz Ali Shah, a DSP posted at the prison’s juvenile ward, was gunned down in the Model Colony area of the city.
Nusrat Mangan, the inspector-general of prisons, told Dawn that up to 20 prison officials had been killed and many others wounded in armed attacks carried out over the past seven years.
“All the 20 officials lost their lives in the line of duty since 2006 or so,” he said.
It was in June 2006 when deputy chief of the Karachi prison Amanullah Khan Niazi and three of his subordinates were gunned down in an audacious attack on a busy downtown road.
In September last year, KCP assistant superintendent Pir Masood Jan Sarhandi and Malir District Jail superintendent Abdul Razzak Abbasi were gunned down near Nipa Chowrangi in an ambush similar to one witnessed in the Saturday incident. Pir Sarhandi was the nephew of a former KCP superintendent, Shabbir Jan Sarhandi.
The modus operandi of assailants in most attacks on jail vans and officials appeared to be identical.
Another senior jail official, Agha Naeem, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Hyderabad last month.
Mr Mangan said Mr Agha had been receiving threats from ‘various organisations’, but he did not elaborate.
“We can’t suspect any group or individual at this stage. A conclusion could be reached after proper investigations,” he added.
“Our officials are performing their duties despite threats. Such attacks could not deter us from our duty to serve the nation,” he said.
In June, some half-a-dozen policemen were wounded in a two back-to-back grenade attacks on the KCP building.
Reports on the attacks suggested that several persons riding motorbikes were involved in the attacks. They drove round the building and lobbed two grenades spreading panic among the officials and prisoners present at the jail and also residents of the nearby colonies.
The central jail, surrounded by congested localities, has a number of high-profile prisoners lodged in its various cells. They belong to criminal gangs and some proscribed organisations.
Another jail official said that in all more than 100 attacks on prisons, their officials and vehicles had been targeted in attacks carried out over the past five years in the province.
“So far, more than 20 officials have been killed and dozens others wounded in different kinds of attacks,” he said, adding that extremism, sectarianism and criminal animosity were generally seen the motive for such attacks.
Some attacks were aimed at getting jailed accomplices of the assailants freed, officials said.
Sindh Minister for Prisons Manzoor Hussain Wassan said the government was taking certain measures to improve security of prisons and their officials.
Amir Rana, an independent security analyst, said attacks on prison officials had different motives ranging from sectarian prejudices to personal enmity.
“Some organisations assign their members the task of attacking one or more particular jail officials when they believe that their jailed members were not being treated well,” he said.
In some cases, jail officials are accused of connivance with hardened criminals. In some other instances, weak control is blamed for indiscipline and disorder as recent reports suggest that militants and gangsters in prisons enjoy the liberty to turn parts of the premises into vice dens.
Security officials also believe that when some officials try to assert their authority to enforce stricter controls they meet with defiance by inmates with the backing of dreaded organisations, which turn hostile to such officials and carry out such attacks to cut them to size.
In late June, a raid conducted by the Rangers and police in the KCP resulted in the recovery of cellphones, laptops and internet devices in large numbers.
The raid was conducted three days after a fierce bomb attack on the Sindh High Court judge, Justice Maqbool Baqar, who was serious wounded in the blast. Nine of his guards were also wounded in the attack.
Officials refer to Rangers’ view that the cellphone used to detonate the bomb was operated by someone present in the jail.