KARACHI: Almost 95 per cent of children in jails are undertrial prisoners and only around 5pc of them are convicts, said Sindh Prisons Minister Ziaul Hassan Lanjar while responding to legislators’ queries during Question Hour — that pertained to the prisons department — in the Sindh Assembly’s Thursday session.
When Muttahida Qaumi Movement legislator Heer Ismail Soho sought the number of juvenile prisoners, the minister said there were 210 inmates, including eight foreigners, in four such jails, renamed Youthful Offenders Industrial Schools (YOIS). He said that of 202 Pakistanis 10 were convicts and 192 were undertrial prisoners (UTPs). Similarly of the eight foreigners — all from Afghanistan — six were UTPs and two were convicts. He said the largest number of inmates was accused of murders. The second largest group was accused of robberies.
MQM legislator Dilawar Qureshi asked why there were no YOIS in all the districts and where young inmates were kept in the districts where such facilities were not available. The minister said that young inmates were shifted to the nearest of the four facilities located in Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana and Sukkur. For a shorter stay of a few days the youth were kept in the common prisons in their districts, but kept in separate barracks/cells/rooms away from adult prisoners.
Responding to a question by MQM legislator Sumeta Syed that how many prisoners had escaped, the minister said that 15 prisoners had escaped since 2012 — five of them from prisons in Karachi and 10 from police custody. He said that inquiries were being conducted, FIRs had been registered, and investigations were in an advanced stage and whoever was found involved, stern action would be taken against them.
Three jails for Karachi, high-security prison for Jherruk proposed
MQM legislator Kamran Akhtar said a large number of UTPs were not presented in court as bribes were demanded from them which everybody could not pay and in some cases the UTPs had been in prison for a longer time than the sentence even if they had been convicted. The minister said that over 90pc of the UTPs were presented in court on their hearings, and the rest might not be presented owing to logistics issues. He asked the legislator to provide specific information on the bribe issue and he would look into it and those found responsible would be taken to task.
The minister said that some other prisoners, who were involved in heinous crimes or belonged to banned/terrorist organisations, were also not taken out of the prisons for security reasons and they were tried in special courts inside the jails.
Answering a question by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf legislator Seema Zia about the installation of mobile phone signal jammers in prisons, the minister said that seven jammers had been installed in the Karachi prison, while 10 each were installed in the Hyderabad and Sukkur prisons. He said efforts were also being made to install jammers in other prisons. Responding to a question asked by her regarding the installation of CCTV cameras, the minister said some “amateur” cameras had been installed in Karachi as a stopgap arrangement, but soon high-quality professional cameras would be installed in the prisons.
The minister agreed with Ms Soho regarding the prisons being overcrowded and said the department had sought the establishment of a high-security prison at Jherruk (Thatta district), while three others with a capacity of 800 inmates each were proposed to be set up in Karachi’s East, West and Central districts. Similarly, other prisons had been proposed for other districts also.
Inmates & hepatitis
A written reply to a question said that 1,448 prisoners had been suffering from hepatitis up to June 2013. The reply to another question said that the number of prisoners diagnosed with hepatitis during the last three years was 1,815, of which 961 were provided with treatment while 848 were not provided treatment owing to various reasons and six prisoners had died.
The written reply to a question said the government awarded relief to the prisoners on account of Christmas.
The written reply to a question showed that while almost all prisons in the province were overcrowded — the Karachi facility having a capacity of 2,400 currently housed over 5,000 prisoners and 446 security staffers were also posted there — there was, however, one prison where there was not a single prisoner but 38 staffers were posted there. The reply said that the Open Prison at Badin was set up in 1971/72 and 38 staffers were posted there. The reply however did not give the capacity of the prison.
The written reply to a question said the oldest prison in the province was set up in Hyderabad in 1894 and it had a capacity of 1,527 inmates and 519 staffers were posted there. The second oldest prison was set up in Karachi in 1899 with a capacity of 2,400 but only 446 staffers were posted there.
Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017