LAHORE: Amid reports that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who were convicted in the Avenfield Apartments reference, will be arrested upon arrival in Lahore, authorities say that Mr Sharif will be sent to a jail in the ‘Better Class’ category by virtue of being a former parliamentarian, but Maryam can avail the facility only if she proves that she has paid at least Rs600,000 as annual income tax.
They would have to submit an application requesting a Better Class jail, as it won’t automatically apply to them. Furthermore, the jails would not be furnished with an air-conditioner or a refrigerator.
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“This is what the family can get under the law,” said a senior official of the home department on Tuesday. “Capt Safdar (retired), Mr Sharif’s son-in-law, can also get a Better Class jail after submitting an application. He had not applied for it in writing by Tuesday evening and was therefore not given a jail in that category,” an official source said.
Officials said the colonial-era categories of A, B or C class jails in the Punjab do not apply anymore. The classification was changed to Better Class and Ordinary Class through an amendment to the Punjab Jails Rules on a direction of the Lahore High Court some years ago.
Maryam to be eligible if she has paid Rs600,000 annual income tax
Under the rules, Mr Sharif can get a Better Class jail if he submits an application requesting it. However, the rules do not provide additional privilege to any former or serving president, prime minister or chief minister.
Since Maryam Nawaz is neither a former nor serving gazetted military or civil officer, like her husband, or a sitting or former parliamentarian, like her father, she can claim Better Class only if she proves, with documents, that she has paid at least an annual income tax of Rs600,000.
The Better Class jails have limited facilities. Those availing the option are entitled to books and newspapers, a 21-inch television, a table and a chair, a mattress, personal bedding and clothing and food. The prisoners have to pay for all this themselves. The government is only obligated to provide them security in a high-security ward where they will be kept away from other prisoners.
Officials said according to the legal procedure, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will have to produce Mr Sharif and Maryam before the accountability judge who had convicted them. The judge will then give the NAB a warrant of contract, which would carry details of the punishment given to them and directions to the jail superintendent to take them into custody.
Officials said it is the judge who decides which prison the convicts will be kept in initially. But Mr Sharif and his daughter are likely to be confined to Adiala Jail, because it has a secluded high-security ward.
Mr Safdar is eligible for a Better Class jail on three counts, being a former gazetted army officer, a former gazetted civil servant (he was inducted into the Civil Service of Pakistan and was given the rank of assistant commissioner before retired Gen Musharraf removed the Nawaz government in 1999), and a former parliamentarian (he was an MNA in the previous National Assembly).
“The government cannot give them facilities not mentioned in the Prisons Rule. But it would have to ensure adequate security wherever the Sharif family members are kept... They are nevertheless high profile prisoners,” said an official.
Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2018