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KARACHI: After a detailed investigation into the escape of two hardcore Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militants from Karachi Central Prison in June, a team of investigators led by DIG Prisons retired Capt Pervez Ahmed Chandio arrived at the conclusion that around a dozen jail officials ‘abated and facilitated’ the jailbreak, it emerged on Friday.

Also, Additional IG Dr Sanaullah Abbasi, head of the CTD police in Sindh that is handling the jailbreak case, was of the opinion that the ‘negligence’ on part of the jail officials was “deliberate, contributing towards abetting, facilitating [the jailbreak] and criminal conspiracy”.

The AIG said: “The recovery of contraband in a subsequent search operation by the Rangers shows and proves part of a bigger conspiracy.” He added the recovery of Rs3.5 million cash during the search indicated that the money was being used for financing terrorism.

The two LJ militants, Sheikh Mumtaz alias Firaun and Mohammad Ahmed alias Munna, who were arrested by the CTD in the year 2013 for their alleged involvement in the killing of over 60 people, mainly Shia community members and law enforcers, had escaped from the Central Jail Karachi on June 13.

Inquiry findings

“The accused Senior Superintendent of Prison Ghulam Murtaza Shaikh and his accused subordinates behaved carelessly, negligently and dishonestly throughout their tenure in maintaining discipline and order at the Central Prison Karachi,” according to the findings of DIG Prisons-led team obtained by Dawn on Friday.

Ironically, the prison was being dominated and influenced by some ‘powerful’ prisoners instead of the jail administration, the inquiry report said.

“The accused officers/officials miserably failed to enforce Sindh Prisons Rules, 1978 and the departmental SOPs/orders during the period in question, which ultimately created loose environment for hardcore prisoners namely Mohammad Ahmed alias Munna and Shaikh Mumtaz to escape easily from highly sensitive prison on June 13.”

Convict assists clerk, tampers with record

On the morning of June 13, a convict namely Arshad Ali was illegally deputed to assist clerk Yasir Ali for the issuance of slips for the production of prisoners before an anti-terrorism court situated inside the Central Prison Karachi, said the investigation report.

The convict also issued a production slip for one UTP, Nadeem, and others facing trial in the ATC-VII. Convict Arshad also included the name of Mohammad Ahmed alias Munna (escapee) who was actually not required among them. But the convicted prisoner, Arshad Ali, tampered with the prison record and inserted Munna’s name.

Constable allows both LJ suspects

Subsequently, prison constable Abdul Ghafoor of the security ward No 26 allowed Mohammad Ahmed alias Munna to be produced in ATC-VII, violating the jail manual. The said prison constable also allowed prisoner Shaikh Mumtaz alias Firaun (Zimedar: responsible for ward No 25 and 26) to accompany Munna on the pretext that he had to see his lawyer, “without any legal permission”, the report disclosed.

However, constable Abdul Ghafoor said the order for permitting Shaikh Mumtaz to see his lawyer was given by Rafique, head clerk/hearing officer, through prison head constable Nawab Ali.

No escort, no count

All prisoners after their case hearing in the courts were “allowed to go back to their barracks without any supervision or escort, which gave an opportunity to the two prisoners, Mohammad Ahmed alias Munna and Shaikh Mohammad Mumtaz alias Firaun, to hide in the production room of non-operational ATC-XVIII.”

ASI Mohammad Farosh, official in charge of the production at the ATCs, told the investigators that he had been deputed to join in Zuhr prayers with ‘high-profile prisoner’ Shaikh Umer on a daily basis, leaving “his sensitive and most important production duty at the ATCs.”

As a matter of routine he left his duty to accompany the prisoner Shaikh Umer for Zuhr prayer on June 13. Once he returned, the hearing of the cases were over and the prisoners had gone back to their wards without any count, the report said.

There were four constables deployed at the ATCs who locked the main door of the ATCs and gave OK report to ASI Farosh at 2.30pm without checking and verifying the exact count of the prisoners produced in the court and returning from the ATCs.

“Due to loose discipline environment” at the barracks which were open throughout the day, the official in charge Amaldar, Head Constable Nawab Ali, deputed at security ward No 25/26 did not verify if all the prisoners produced in the ATCs from his ward had returned or not.

‘Unprecedented’ delay in jail’s closure

DIG Prisons Capt Chandio said it was found after the examination of Register No 10 (lockup register) that the time of locking of the jail was shown 1950hours, contrary to the ground realities, “to willfully bluff the senior officers and give illegal relaxations/ facilities to the prisoners purely for ulterior motives.”

Even during locking, HC Nawab Ali and his two subordinates Abdul Ghafoor and Atta Mohammad did not physically count the prisoners but they relied merely on OK report of prisoners themselves.

“The jail was locked at about 2300 hours throughout the month of Ramazan instead of 1700 hours against the prison rules, which is unprecedented in the history of prisons not only in Sindh but across Pakistan,” said DIG Chandio.

Besides, the report said, “surprisingly no prison official noticed at the time of locking of the prison at 2300 hours on June 13 that UTP Shaikh Mumtaz (Zimedar of the ward 25/26) was missing along with prisoner Mohammad Ahmed alias Munna.

Rs3.5m cash, 102 mobile phones in jail

After the arrest of SSP Ghulam Murtaza Shaikh and other jail officers on the complaint of the then DIG prisons, a search of Central Prison Karachi was carried out by the Pakistan Rangers on June 18 in which around Rs3.5 million and 102 mobile phones and other contraband stuff were recovered from the jail in gross violation of Sindh Prisons Rules, 1978.

Terror suspects got all facilities in jail

It emerged during the investigation that the jail officers/officials miserably failed to discharge their responsibilities in accordance with Sindh Prisons Rules, 1978.

The hardcore criminals/terrorists were provided illegal facilities i.e. Bardashees (Prison Labour) as personal servants, gas stoves, raw ration and as well as they were allowed to keep a huge cash with them in violation of the prison rules.

“Hardcore terrorists were allowed to remain unlocked till late night on the pretext of Namaz Taraveeh whereas there is no such relaxation or provision in Sindh Prison Rules, 1978 and any of Departmental orders /SOPs.”

No such practice was found at District Prison Malir, or any other jail across the province.

The escapee Shaikh Mumtaz was made “Zimedar” (responsible) by then Hearing Officer Rafique to run the affairs of security ward No 25 and 26 though there was no provision in the SPR-1978 or any departmental orders /SOPs to make even an ordinary prisoner as “Zimedar” (responsible) to run the prison affairs.

Free access

Hardcore criminals/terrorists used to come from different wards of the prison to ATCs in the judicial complex adjacent to Central Prison Karachi without escort or search and returned alone as such.

“There was free access of prisoners to deal with prison registers.”

The investigators found that at one time three prison officials were “insulted, misbehaved and manhandled by high-profile prisoners” but no legal action was taken against them by the jail administration.”

“Such inaction on the part of jail administration on one hand encouraged the prisoners and on other hand demoralized/ discouraged the prison staff,” the officials believed.

They said the jail administration ignored the internal security of high-profile prisoners/terrorists and allowed the two most junior officials inside the prison despite the fact that four senior deputy superintendents were working at the prison.

The inquiry also found that there were a large number of complaints against harassment, extortion of money and maltreatment in the jail at different levels.

It was also found that a prison constable used to go to the market outside the jail to buy food for Iftar for hardcore criminals/terrorists who paid him cash for this job in violation of the jail rules.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2017