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Plan to build high-security prison for ‘hardcore militants’ yet to take off

KARACHI: The Rs1.5 billion project of the Sindh government for a high-security prison has not gone beyond paperwork in two years as the land acquired for it has not been transferred to the prisons department, it emerged here on Sunday.

The new facility has been conceived to lodge those convicted or being tried in high-profile terrorism cases. The plan was meant to accommodate terrorism suspects and convicts, at present confined to general prisons, though in separate enclosures, but with other ordinary prisoners.

Similarly, said officials, land for six more prisons in Sindh, including three in Karachi, had not been transferred to the prison authorities because of departmental red tape.

Officials in the Sindh home ministry have conveyed to the competent authority that the provincial land utilisation department had not allotted or transferred the land acquired for the establishment of a high-security prison in Jamshoro and six prisons elsewhere.

“The government lands have been reserved for new prisons in Jamshoro and four other districts under the directives of the Sindh chief minister but the same has not been transferred or allotted to the jail department by the land utilisation department despite repeated requests,” said a recent communication sent to the competent authority by prison officials.

The provincial government had launched the security plan to build a high-security detention facility at Jamshoro after a jailbreak plot was thwarted in Karachi two years ago.

In October 2014, a 45-metre-long and 10-metre-deep tunnel was discovered being dug just a few metres from the Central Prison Karachi (CPK) to spring 100 ‘dangerous militants’ from the facility, in a house situated in a neighbouring locality.

Several suspects belonging to a banned outfit were arrested when the house was raided. The move was followed by a jail operation during which all prisoners were searched physically that led to the recovery of electric wires, scissors, radios, jihadi literature, knives, party flags and a modified ladder.

The house situated in Ghausia Colony, a shanty town close to the CPK, had been bought by the suspects.

In the events that followed, a 300-acre piece of land for the project had been acquired in Deh Morho Jabal in Kotri taluka of Jamshoro district. The government had promised to complete the project soon with heavy funding. However, it has not even settled the land issue so far.

“This project is of high importance, yet, it is being delayed because of red tape in the government,” said a source in the government.

New prisons

Similarly, the government has plans to construct three new prisons in Karachi. For the purpose, officials said, a 200-acre piece of land had been acquired in Deh Machko, Karachi West. Besides, 300 acres in Deh Ghaghar and 244.22 acres in Deh Thoming in Scheme 33 in Malir district have been acquired by the government for the construction of new prisons. These prisons will ultimately replace the present CPK, which is dangerously sandwiched by urban settlements and could be targeted again.

Some 100 acres have been acquired in Mithi to build a district prison in Thar. Another 50.25 acres are to be used to build a district prison in Umerkot.

Unfortunately, as officials said, the land utilisation department had not transferred or allotted all those pieces of land to the prisons department.

Officials said a proposal had already been made to convert the existing premises of the CPK into a judicial complex.

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights had recommended in 2014 the construction of high-security prisons in each province to keep all terrorism suspects and convicts there.

The jails in Sindh are home to some of the country’s most notorious prisoners, including the mastermind of the kidnapping and slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh; those who had attacked the US consulate general in Karachi and the then corps commander Karachi’s convoy; and the chief of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Akram Lahori.

Jail officials said unlike other prisoners who were permitted to benefit from literacy, computer, fine arts, music and Quranic lessons at the jail, the militants were confined to their quarters as a rule.

courtesy : dawn news

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