LAHORE: Another case of political interference in official matters surfaced after Punjab Minister for Prisons Zawar Hussain visited the Kot Lakhpat Jail on Thursday and allegedly unlocked high security barracks.
The minister, along with ‘six suspected civilians’, allegedly held a secret meeting with the militants of banned terror outfits involved in suicide attacks in Lahore and under-trial sectarian inmates. Through his visit to the high-profile prisoners, he created a risk of security lapse as he allegedly unlocked the barracks, housing 109 dangerous terrorists in sheer violation of Pakistan Prisons Rules 1978.
Presently, the jail houses 3,700 convicts and other inmates, including 300 death row prisoners, 45 foreigners, 70 high-profile/sectarian prisoners and those convicted by army courts, besides 2,200 other dangerous convicted inmates.
Minister Zawar Hussain allegedly forced his entry into the jail in the wee hours and stopped the jail superintendent and other senior officials from accompanying him as he went to meet the prisoners, says a detailed report dispatched to the home secretary by the prisons department.
Holds ‘secret meeting’ with terrorists, accompanied by six civilians; report of six-hour long visit sent to home secretary
It says the minister allegedly forced all the jail officials to leave the premises and made them wait outside it. He directed the officials not to enter the jail until he completes his ‘work’ as he seized the keys to the cells/barracks of the high-risk prisoners, unlocked the cells and met and interviewed the prisoners in violation of rules.
On resistance, he locked the official guards of the high-security blocks of the dangerous prisoners in a cell for ‘not cooperating with him’.
In his meeting with the under-trial militants of the banned terrorist outfits involved in suicide attacks in Lahore, he was accompanied by six civilians. The minister remained in the prison for six hours.
Superintendent of the Kot Lakhpat Jail Ijaz Asghar made these stunning revelations in his detailed report, available with Dawn, sent to Punjab Inspector General of Prisons Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig.
Mr Baig brought the matter to the knowledge of the secretary interior who ordered high-level investigation into the issue.
Earlier, incidents of political interference in the official affairs involving the PTI parliamentarians surfaced in Pakpattan and Chakwal, causing embarrassment for the party that has remained quite vocal against political interference in official matters.
In the fresh scam, the superintendent of the jail, in his report, mentioned serious violations of the prisons rules and the ‘mysterious activities’ of the minister and his six civilian companions. He took help of the CCTV cameras in the jail to prepare the report.
“According to the prisons rules 1978, the prisons guard is the custodian of the keys of jail corridor and it happened for the first time that the minister snatched keys from him and handed them over to a suspected civilian who was accompanying him,”the report says.
The six civilians who came with the minister took into custody the official walkie-talkie sets from all the deputed jail employees, it alleges.
According to the section 924 of the prisons rules, no one is allowed to enter the jail after it is locked at the specified time but the minister violated the laws and entered the premises without prior intimation. The minister violated the section 925 of the rules, got the barracks unlocked and met high-profile prisoners along the civilian men, it says. He violated the section 725 of the rules by locking the night officer and security guards, unlocking the Barrack 4 of the high value targets (prisoners), creating a serious risk for their escape.
According to the section 963 (ii) of the rules, no visitor is allowed to enter the jail without the assistance of the authorised prison officials.
“The minister stopped the superintendent of the jail to accompany him and also disallowed him to enter the jail,” says the report.
IG Prisons Punjab Shahid Baig refused to comment on the issue.
The spokesperson for the prisons minister denied the allegations of violation of rules by the minister.
Talking to Dawn, the spokesperson said the minister had paid a surprise visit to the Kot Lakhpat Jail for routine inspection and he had received many complaints against the jail officials from the prisoners who told him that the jail officials took bribe from them to facilitate them.
“The mobile phones service was also working. During the inspection, the minister found some prisoners of routine cases locked with the dangerous inmates.”
The spokesperson added that the prisoners told the minister that they were being served low-quality food and medicines were not available while 40 inmates were found asleep out of 69.
Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2018