Under-trial prisoners escape from the Model Town district courts lock-up (left). The policeman who was injured by the inmates being shifted to a hospital (right). — White Star
Under-trial prisoners escape from the Model Town district courts lock-up (left). The policeman who was injured by the inmates being shifted to a hospital (right). — White Star

LAHORE: As many as 12 under-trial prisoners having criminal record escaped from the Model Town district courts lock-up despite presence of police here on Monday.

Some of the under-trial prisoners who escaped form the district courts poorly managed lock-up after rioting are facing serious charges, including drug supply, robbery and theft.

Initial reports said the inmates demolished a wall of a washroom in the lock-up and used its bricks to break open the lock of its central gate and escaped.

As per sources, the rioting erupted when the police allegedly refused to allow the relatives of some prisoners to supply food and other items to them.

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A footage of the incident showed presence of several armed police personnel there when the inmates were fleeing the judicial lock-up.

The CCTV footage showed the prisoners brought from different jails abusing the policemen, throwing furniture and other objects on them and trying to get out of the judicial lock-up.

The police personnel standing there could be seen in the footage acting like silent spectators or making halfhearted attempts to thwart the prisoners’ bid to escape.

The incident not only exposed the low morale of the police force, but also their poor training and capacity to check such incidents.

On being informed of the situation, a high-alert was issued by the police authorities in the city, and additional force was dispatched to the scene to maintain law and order.

Besides setting up additional police pickets in various parts of the provincial capital, the barriers at the entry and exit points were fortified by deputing extra force there to nab the fleeing prisoners.

Official record shows that a total of 166 prisoners were brought for hearing of their cases in prison vans from the two major prisons of Lahore -- Kot Lakhpat and Central Jail -- to the Model Town courts.

The witnesses said the prisoners were kept in the judicial lock-up on the district courts premises before presenting them before judges for hearing of criminal cases lodged against them.

They said suddenly a scuffle broke out among some of the inmates, prompting a policeman to unlock the judicial lock-up to end the brawl.

Meanwhile, they said, the fighting inmates broke the wooden chairs and tables placed in the lock-up and threw the parts of broken furniture on the police personnel while hurling abuses at them.

A footage of the incident also showed the prisoners using the broken furniture as ‘weapon’ to shoo away the armed police personnel, who seemed reluctant to go near the lock-up.

Lahore Operations SSP Mustansar Feroz told Dawn that minor scuffles among prisoners inside the judicial lock-up was a routine, but the situation turned serious on Monday when the inmates attacked the police and escaped.

He said the prisoners took advantage of the negligence of some of the policemen on duty, who had been suspended from service.

“One of the fleeing prisoners was nabbed by the police on the spot, while two others have been arrested from Chungi Amar Sidhu and Ghalib Market, respectively”, he said.

Mr Feroz said the inmates who fled the lock-up were allegedly involved in robbery, theft and illegal weapons and none of them was accused of murder.

He said initial investigations showed the unrest sparked when some jail officials and police personnel disallowed the prisoners’ relatives to provide them mobile phones and other items which were banned as per the standard operating procedure (SOPs).

He said several police teams formed by the higher authorities had been dispatched for the arrest of the fleeing under-trial prisoners.

Meanwhile, Punjab Inspector General of Police Rao Sardar Ali Khan has suspended from service Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Prisoners Escort, Lahore, in the wake of escape of the under-trial prisoners.

He sought a detailed report from the Lahore capital city police officer on the incident and also ordered a departmental inquiry into the episode to fix responsibility for negligence.

Mr Khan directed the CCPO to ensure arrest of all the fleeing prisoners as soon as possible and bring them to justice.

He also directed review of the security arrangements at district courts to prevent such incident in future.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2021



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