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Strict procedures needed to check jail breaks

August 07, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The dramatic escape of a high-profile under-trial prisoner (UTP) from custody has shaken the capital police department. More so because this is the second time that a high-profile UTP has escaped in less than two months – in June, another UTP involved in the largest ever robbery of Islamabad involving Rs50million had managed to run away.

While investigation into Roohullah’s escape is still under progress, the blame is being squarely put on the shoulders of low-ranking officials who have been served with departmental punishments.

Roohullah is alleged to have murdered former Advocate General of Peshawar High Court in 2010 in Islamabad, and had been on the run since then. The police chased him all over Pakistan then Afghanistan and Dubai, but it was only last year that he was arrested from Oman.

According to officials within the police, Roohullah travelled abroad frequently on Afghan traveling documents of his cousin, Fazal Ahmed Khan, who works with the Public Works Department of Peshawar, who bears a close resemblance to him.

Roohullah had finally been tracked down in Dubai, and on January 26, 2011 was taken into custody by Interpol and Dubai immigration staff on the request of capital police. By using his contacts, the accused had managed to get a case registered against himself for the dishonouring of a cheque in Dubai to avoid extradition to Pakistan. Later he obtained bail from the local courts of Dubai and succeeded to escape to Muscat, Oman, from where he was arrested.

He was brought to Islamabad on May 16, 2011 for further investigation and trial.

Even within the capital police circle, it is quite well-known that Roohullah has big contacts. One source even claims that intelligence surveillance of the officers of Gulbahar police had revealed that its station house officer and deputy superintendent of police were secretly helping the accused as he managed to flee whenever the police raided his residence and hideouts in Peshawar and its adjacent areas.

Senior officers in conversation with Dawn admitted that the escapes had only been possible because of the connivance of staff. “Accomplices of the UTPs have also taken advantage of the negligence and laziness of police,” an officer said, “as there have been gross violations of standard operating procedures.”

“Quite often, family members and friends of the UTPs come to the court to meet them, and they exchange clothes and utensils which the guards do not bother examining,” he said.

He also pointed out that the restraints used to tie the UTPs and convicted prisoners are out-dated. “The handcuffs can easily be opened with a piano ball pen and empty milk pack box. Several complaints have been lodged but no replacements have been offered,” he added.

“Few modern handcuffs were purchased by the capital police that were flexible and adjusted at the wrists of the accused according to their size, but they are being used at the level of the police stations and not for UTPs,” he elaborated.

The senior officer said that double lock system has been introduced, whereby the locks can only be opened by using two different keys, one carried by a moharrar and the other a duty officer.

Another senior officer opined that the escapes of UTPs would be countered by deploying an officer of a Deputy Superintendent of Police rank officer.

“Inspectors and other low ranking officers have failed to supervise UTPs, which resulted in their escape. If there is a senior officer such as a DSP, the guards are more alert and attentive due to his presence,” he claimed.