KARACHI: The Sindh government is considering a proposal for the establishment of a “high-security prison” in the Nooriabad area for suspected terrorists and hardcore criminals in view of the looming security threat to the central prison, Karachi, it emerged on Wednesday.
The prison authorities have asked the Jamshoro deputy commissioner to provide at least 300 acres, preferably in the Nooriabad area, according to official sources and documents reviewed by Dawn.
Also, the prison authorities are contemplating setting up another jail in Malir district in addition to the renovation of the existing one.
Security threat to the central prison increased amid the country’s overall law and order situation, while the increasing number of banned militant group members in the jail compounded the problem, said IG Prison Nusrat Mangan while giving a briefing to Sindh Chief Secretary Sajjad Saleem Hotiana during his visit to the prison on Wednesday.
Police chief Iqbal Mehmood, home secretary Dr Niaz Abbasi, special secretary home (prison) Dr Nawaz Shaikh and other officials were present.
The chief secretary was informed that as the jail was surrounded by residential and commercial areas, high-rises situated in Ghousia Colony behind the prison had emerged as ‘the most potential threat’ to the prison. The construction of an overhead bridge adjacent to the jail added a new dimension to the threat level, it was pointed out.
It was said that several steps had been taken to enhance the jail security while many more measures were needed for an identical purpose.
Some security steps included the placement of concrete blocks at the main entry points of the jail and on Ghousia Colony Road, provision of 30 wireless communication sets to the jail staff, installation of three walkthrough gates and six metal detectors.
Besides, closed-circuit TV cameras had been installed at sensitive points and the jail had also been equipped with a system to record phone conversation of inmates.
For enhanced security, police as well as Rangers and FC personnel have been deployed at different spots and wire fencing was also under way.
The IG prison said the prison wall was being raised to the height of 22 feet. Ten courts were being built inside the jail for the trial of terror suspects under a direction of the apex court.
About jail reforms, it was said computer training had been initiated and it was decided that prisoners would also be given training of performing arts from next week.
It was disclosed that several NGOs had been taken on board for the reform programmes though for the time being NGOs associated with religious sects had not been allowed to work in the prison after recent cracker attacks and security threats communicated by intelligence agencies.
Built on 48 acres in 1899, the central prison was meant for 990 prisoners but it was overcrowded at present with 5,399 inmates in 52 barracks and 203 cells.
Of the 5,399 prisoners, 28 were ‘B’ class and 13 were foreigners facing trial in courts while 803 were convicted including 23 ‘B’ class and two foreigners.
A total of 1,173 prisoners had been arrested on the charge of murder, 178 facing trial in kidnap for ransom cases while eight prisoners were detained under the blasphemy act.
There were 381 prisoners whose cases were pending before the ATC Karachi while the cases of 151 prisoners had been notified for trial inside the jail.
Also, there are as many as 143 condemned prisoners but no prisoner has been executed since July 2008.
A majority of the prisoners were between 18 and 35 years of age whose monthly income was less than Rs10,000, according to the briefing.
In terms of academic qualification, over two percent were postgraduate.
Around 97 per cent of the prisoners are Muslims, 1.74pc are Christians and a negligible number of Hindus. Among the Muslims, over 59pc belong to the Deobandi, 33pc to the Barelvi and over four per cent to the Shia sect.
The chief secretary sought a report on the release of prisoners on parole when the IG prison informed him that their release on parole had been banned since 2012.
IG Mangan also said there was a proposal to provide ‘soft loan’ to the prisoners who served out their sentence but remained unable to pay fine.
The chief secretary directed the prison authorities to work on the implementation of a proposal for ‘video link production’ of prisoners in the courts.