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November 10, 2018

High-security prison not built yet for want of land, minister tells PA


November 10, 2018

The Sindh Assembly was informed on Friday that the project of the Sindh government to construct a maximum high-security prison for hardened criminals had been delayed for the last couple of years owing to the non-availability of land for the purpose.

Sindh Prisons Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah provided the information to the lawmakers concerned while answering questions related to the prisons department during the Question Hour at the provincial assembly. According to Shah, the maximum high-security prison had been proposed to imprison as many as 1,000 hardened criminals; however, the plan could not be materialised as the government failed to allocate land for the prison.

The prisons minister informed the House that the home department had applied in 2017 for the allocation of 300 acres of land for the aforementioned prison but as of yet, the Sindh Board of Revenue had not transferred the land to the home department.

Though Shah did not elaborate on where the maximum high-security prison would be built, sources privy to the matter said the prison was planned to be built in either Jamshoro or Thatta districts and its construction has been pending for around three years.

The prisons minister was of the view that there should be a prison facility in every district of Karachi owing to the ever increasing population of jail inmates in the existing prison facilities in the city.

The Central Jail Karachi has the capacity to accommodate 2,400 jail inmates; however, in actual fact 4,846 prisoners have been incarcerated there, Shah said, adding that the 3,449 inmates at the Malir Jail were also more than its capacity.

The prisons minister also conceded that the current situation of prisons in the province was far from being satisfactory. Informing the House about actions being taken by the government to improve the situation, Shah said a project had been initiated to construct new barracks in the existing jail facilities in various districts of the province.

The construction of new barracks would expand the capacity of the existing jails as they would accommodate an extra 5,000 inmates, the prisons minister said, adding that the new barrack at the Malir Jail would allow incarceration of 1,000 more prisoners.

The government was also constructing prisons in Hyderabad, Shaheed Benazirabad, and Thatta districts, Shah said. Imprisoned MPA of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party Sharjeel Inam Memon made a startling disclosure in the House that over 50 prisoners at the Central Jail Karachi had been diagnosed with the fatal HIV/AIDS disease. Citing doctors, he claimed that the number of jail inmates suffering from HIV/AIDS could cross the figure of 500 if all the prisoners did not undergo a thorough medical examination.

Memon also informed the House about a prayer leader of a mosque who had to spend 17 years of his life in jail before he was exonerated of criminal charges against him. According to the imprisoned MPA, the situation of prisons in the province had improved to some extent but reforms were still needed. Jail inmates were being offered English language and computer courses, he said. Memon also called for an increase in the salaries of the jail staff.

The PPP MPA also suggested that parliamentarians visit jail facilities of the province on a frequent basis. The imprisoned lawmaker said he would write to the Chief Justice of Pakistan on the plight of prisoners and would also request him to visit the prisons.

The leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Firdous Shamim Naqvi, said pregnant lady prisoners in the province should not be kept at jails during their pregnancy. He said the opposition would support any legislation proposed by the government to uplift the conditions of female prisoners in Sindh.

MQM-P MPA Khawaja Izhar ul Hassan criticised double standards being observed in the prisons of the province. He claimed that life in jail was very tough for poor inmates while undue facilities were being extended to privileged and high-profile prisoners. Hassan demanded that the government improve performance of the prosecution so that justice could be served in a speedy manner.

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