ISLAMABAD: As the deadline for the construction of the Islamabad model jail ends in July, the newly-appointed chief commissioner has asked the officials concerned to expedite the construction and make the prison operational within 100 days through round-the-clock work.

The directives followed a letter by the Adiala Jail superintendent to the chief commissioner, Mohammad Ali Randhawa, who sought necessary directives for makeshift arrangements for individuals detained by the police in the federal capital for “begging”.

Capital administration officials told Dawn that Commissioner Randhawa presided over a meeting regarding the construction of the model jail and ordered its completion in 100 days. “Delay in the construction of Islamabad model jail will not be tolerated,” he said, adding that the construction work should be completed in three shifts.

The commissioner was informed that 73 per cent construction of the administration block, 98 per cent construction of walls, and 42 per cent construction of male barracks had been completed. In response, the commissioner said that he would visit the construction site to review the progress.

Adiala admin refuses to house ‘beggers’ detained by capital police due to overcrowding

Stalled prison project

The model jail was started in 2016-17 but is still under construction. The model prison in Islamabad aims to house 2,000 inmates with the provision of 2,000 additional inmates.

As per the original PC-I, the project worth Rs3.9 billion was supposed to be completed in 36 months — July 2019. Subsequently, the PC-I was revised with a new cost of Rs18.2 billion. As per the revised PC-I, the project’s deadline is July 2024.

Under the revised PC-I, the covered area was increased from 869,621 square feet to 914,329 square feet.

The PC-I was revised because of changes to the covered area, variation in scope as per actual site condition, replacements of asphaltic road, revision of foundation design due to a shallow water table, service conditions, premium of land, sewerage treatment plant, enhanced security equipment, and inflation.

The jail construction project was conceived in 2007 and a committee was constituted by the Ministry of Interior comprising the ICT administration, the CDA, and the district judiciary for the selection of an appropriate site. The said site was finalised in a meeting under the chairmanship of the then-chief justice of the Federal Shariat Court, in February 2012.

After the approval of its board, the CDA allotted 90 acres in Sector H-16/2 to the ICT in 2013 and the land was handed over in 2014. During the PTI government in 2020, the prime minister ordered the shifting of the jail from its current site as it was being constructed in green and buffer zones – that separate the federal capital from Rawalpindi.

However, the CDA officials told Dawn that Sector H-16 did not fall in the actual buffer zone at all. They said that the original master plan for the capital was meant for Rawalpindi as well. Under the master plan, the A to H sectors were part of Islamabad and the J to O sectors were to be developed by Rawalpindi.

They said that the actual buffer zone, therefore, was in the I sector series instead of the jail area, but in the documents, no change was made, they said. Subsequently, the federal government decided to continue the project at the same location.

Overcrowded Adiala jail

In his letter, the Adiala Jail superintendent said the jail had an accommodation for 2,174 prisoners whereas 7,000 prisoners were languishing in the facility.

On several occasions, beggars who were arrested under the beggary act from Islamabad district were shifted to the Adiala jail, the letter said, adding that the majority of these beggars included injured, differently-abled persons, scavengers, and substance users.

“Since the number of prisoners (beggars) is more than the available space in the jail, the staff there has to face many problems,” the letter said. The jail superintendent requested the commissioner to get the district jail in the federal capital completed at the earliest so that “beggars, arrested under the beggary act, could be shifted there”.

He further requested that the arrested beggars should not be sent to the Adiala jail.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2024

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