hree more of the 17 prisoners who had fled from Chaman sub-jail on June 29 were apprehended by the police. By August, nine prisoners are still on the loose and a search operation was under way for their capture.
On August 10, Ubaidullah alias Baidal was re-arrested. On July 8, the police nabbed Rehmatullah alias Malangi during a search operation. Later, another runaway prisoner, Shamsullah alias Kheran was arrested from Liaquat Bazaar, Quetta on July 27.
The jailbreak had happened on the occasion of Eid-ul Azha when the police were escorting the prisoners out of Barrack 4 for the morning prayers.
It has been reported that some of the prisoners attacked the police, snatched their weapons and escaped. One of the prisoners lost his life and two were injured during the attempt.
The injured prisoners were taken to hospital for medical care and then re-arrested. One of the prisoners turned himself in voluntarily.
It is worth noting that some high-profile prisoners were being held in this barrack. Nine of the prisoners who fled were undergoing trials for homicide or aiding/ abetting in murders.
Three of the policemen on duty, including jailer Hayat Kousar, were suspended from service for suspected negligence on the directives of Chaman DPO Muhammad Naeem Achakzai.
Two more policemen, Sub-Inspector Abdul Ghani who was also in charge of Quick Response Force and Crime Investigation Agency in charge SI Jan Muhammad were transferred after the prison break.
Talking to the press, DPO Achakzai said that new staff had been appointed in the sub-jail. He also told the media that an FIR had been lodged against the escaped prisoners. He said investigations were under way.
The jail administration told the media that the sub-jail had been built before independence and had never been renovated since. According to the staff, the fence around the jail had also been damaged by the prisoners but timely repairs were not undertaken.
Some of the staff also claimed that the worn-out prison building was missing essential surveillance infrastructure and devices such as CCTV cameras and watchtowers. According to the prison staff, the provincial government and the Interior Ministry had been apprised of the situation on several occasions.
Deputy Inspector General Qamar-uz-Zaman, who visited the prison in July (after the incident), has said that the facility is equipped with surveillance cameras but those were “…not working because of load-shedding.” According to the official, the relevant authorities have launched a probe into the incident.
Habibullah, who lives close to the prison, tells TNS that he had been living there since childhood. “Not once have I seen anyone repair the barracks at the sub-jail,” he says. “I have been here since I was a child. If the facility is not renovated, such incidents will continue to occur.”
According to Advocate Mujeebullah Khilji, the Chaman sub-jail has been reserved for prisoners who are under trial and security protocols have already been spelled out for such inmates. “Suspects are kept in the Chaman sub-jail when they’re being tried by a court. Once they’re convicted, they are sent to Mach or Quetta jail.”
“The prisoners have rights too. The state must ensure that those are protected. According to the SOPs, prisoners should be provided meals on time and medical care, if they require it. Moreover, all movement in and out of prison are recorded,” says the lawyer.
“Prisoners are entitled to visits but there are certain protocols dictating how these meetings are supposed to take place,” points out Khilji.
“For instance, a record is kept of all the meetings. Visitors must also undergo a safety screening,” he adds. “Unfortunately here in Chaman, it appears that these protocols were not being observed,” says Khilji.
A resident of Qilla Abdullah says that this indeed is the case. According to him, he paid a visit to a relative who was in the Chaman sub-jail. He says that bribery was commonplace and the officials were lax about implementing security protocols. “I was not searched. I was led into a room where I met my relative,” he says.
After the jailbreak, the then chief minister Mir Quddus Bizenjo directed the LEAs to re-arrest all the prisoners who had escaped. He also ordered that the jailbreak incident be properly investigated.
Chaman sub-jail, located on Taj Road about 3 kilometres from the Durand Line, was built in 1926. The facility has four barracks that can accommodate 50 prisoners each. Balochistan has a total of 11 jails housing more than 3,000 prisoners, according to the IG.
The writer is a freelance reporter.