ALTHOUGH there was no activity worth focusing on, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz invited reporters and camera persons to Adiala jail’s vicinity on Monday, the third day in custody for ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam.
It started raining early on Monday morning, making the weather pleasant. Since there was no shelter near the jail’s main entrance, reporters and camera persons huddled under the shed of a house in front of the jail.
The editorial desks of TV channels kept their reporters busy by airing their video beepers in every bulletin.
As I drove nearer to the jail, the signals of my cellular services started weakening until there was no signal at all around the jail boundaries.
Since policemen stopped me from parking my car near the entry gate, I parked it at some distance from the premises.
A young reporter in his repeated phone-ins claimed that no one from the PML-N had visited Adiala jail to meet their detained supreme leader.
From the other side of the road adjacent to the main gate of the jail, I heard a policeman belittling the reporter for his “lack of information”.
He said the jail administration had fixed Thursday for visiting Mr Sharif. The family members can meet him any day with the prior approval of the competent authority, he added.
Another police guard said Monday and Thursday were reserved for relatives of prisoners convicted in murder cases. The relatives of prisoners convicted in narcotics cases visit them on Wednesday while the relatives of prisoners facing other offences can meet them on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. No visitors are allowed on Sunday.
Former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed in the Rawalpindi district jail on April 4, 1979. The building, built before Partition, was later demolished and converted into a public park, which is now under the administrative control of the Rawalpindi Corps, also known as X Corps.
Since 1984, Rawalpindi’s central jail has been functioning in a newly constructed building in Adiala village. Hence it has been renamed as Central Jail, Adiala, Rawalpindi.
Although it was designed to hold 1,900 prisoners at best, it now houses over 6,000 inmates.
Nihal Hashmi, a former senator, served a one-month sentence in this jail a few months ago after the Supreme Court convicted him of contempt of court charges.
Among other prominent figures to have served time in this prison not long ago, the names of supermodel Ayyan Ali, Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, come to mind.
Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani was also an inmate at Adiala jail during the rule of retired General Pervez Musharraf . He authored a book ‘Chah-i-Yousaf say sada’ (Call from Yousaf’s well).
Senior politician Makhdoom Javed Hashmi served a prison term in Adiala jail in a treason case. He completed a book, Han mein baghi hoon (Yes, I am a traitor), after his release.
Hashmi arrived to meet Sharif in Adiala jail on Monday, but the authorities refused to let him in, saying that “you can visit on Thursday”.
Later a spokesperson for the PML-N, Marriyum Aurangzeb, led a procession of the party’s women’s wing to the place. Rawalpindi mayor Sardar Naseem followed too. But they were not allowed to see Mr Sharif.
On Saturday, Hussain Nawaz, the eldest son of Nawaz Sharif, had tweeted: “I am told that my father was not given a bed to sleep on and the bathroom was extremely dirty, probably not cleaned for ages. There’s no precedent of treating people’s representatives with dignity in this country, but these are some basic rights denial of which constitutes torture.”
An activist of the PML-N regretted that the jail administration was not treating the thrice-elected prime minister well. With a mood of introspection overwhelming him, he ascribed the mistreatment to the failure of his party to come up with an impressive show on the day of the Sharifs’ arrival.
He then tried to dig up an explanation for the PML-N’s poor show on July 13 despite a “wave of sympathy” for the former premier.
“Qamrul Islam Raja, the PML-N’s ticket-holder for the constituency where Adiala jail is situated (NA-59), was arrested the day party awarded him a ticket to contest against estranged leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Since the area is the stronghold of Chaudhry Nisar and Raja is in NAB’s custody, the party workers are not in high spirits at the moment,” the activist said in an attempt to paper over the PML-N’s failings.
Another leader living nearby is Mohammad Hanif Abbasi. But he finds his hands tied after the Lahore High Court directed the Control of Narcotics Substance (CNS) court last week to conduct day-to-day proceedings in the ephedrine case and conclude the trial against him by July 21. Hence Abbasi has to attend the trial from early morning till rising of the court.
Daniyal Chaudhry, son of Senator Chaudhry Tanvir, whose constituency is adjacent to NA-59, is facing a case as well as he led the rally at the end of which retired Captain Mohammad Safdar surrendered to the National Accountability Bureau last week.
The PML-N activist acknowledged in a confiding tone that since “there are certain consequences of visiting the Sharifs at this critical juncture”, the leadership has opted for caution.
Published in Dawn, July 17th , 2018