Federal Ombudsman submits 8th implementation report regarding miserable conditions of women in jails

ISLAMABAD (APP): The Federal Ombudsman Friday submitted its 8th implementation report in the Supreme Court (SC) regarding miserable conditions of women in jails.

In the report submitted by Secretary Wafaqi Mohtasib Secretariat (WMS), Dr Jamal Nasir through Hafiz Ahsan Khokhar, stated that all the Provinces had been directed to constitute two Committees including a District Oversight Committees and Welfare Committees for Improvement of life of prisoners in Jails especially for Children, Women and Destitute / Resource-less Prisoners. Ensuring that District Oversight Committees are constituted to monitor the implementation of Orders of Supreme Court in their respective Districts and to submit deficiencies, if any, to the respective Home Department / IG Prisons, it added.

The report stated that these committees should consist of members from the Civil Society, Bars, Education and Health Sectors, who had proven track record of significant contributions for improvement of life of the prisoners.

The report stated that the Ministry of Interior and Provincial Home / Prison Departments had been directed to appoint Senior Officers to act as a Focal Person to enable surprise visits of the above said Committees. The Committees would submit a comprehensive schedule of visits to the respective Focal Persons, it added.

According to the report, the Law & Justice Commission together with Advocates General and Provincial Ombudsmen to review and submit proposals for significant expansion of probation / parole facilities to reduce pressure on accommodation facilities in jails. The Probation and Parole system also needed to be revisited and made more effective to deal not only with overcrowding but also for reformation of convicts, juvenile and first-time offenders, it added.

The report suggested provincial governments to build jails in every district headquarter, and the Federal Government in Islamabad. Every jail should have separate and independent portion for women and juvenile prisoners, with sleeping space for every prisoner with adequate toilet and hygiene facilities, it proposed.

The report suggested that there was a need to link Biometric system in jails with courts for maintaining the record of prisoners. Peshi roaster and jail record / registers should also be computerized / automated, it added.

It suggested that the Provincial governments should be directed to proceed accordingly and ensure development of an interface between jails, courts and NADRA for monitoring and verification of the prisoners’ record. Drug users and mentally insane prisoners to be kept outside the premises of the jail in drug clinics/homes for mentally retarded prisoners and provided medical treatment, it stated and added that the hardcore/high profile criminals such as murderers, terrorist, extortionists should be kept separate from the ordinary or under trial prisoners who are not involved in such heinous crimes.

It stated that the prisoners with HIV, Hepatitis, T.B. and drug addicts should be segregated and kept apart from other prisoners and strict surveillance should be done in jails for protecting the prisoners from physical and sexual assaults.

It recommended that the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, the University falling in respective territorial area of jail, Allama Iqbal Open University, and other good reputed Government institutions/ organizations should be directed to assist in improving educational and skill training facilities including missing facilities / payment of fines to deserving prisoners.

It stated that the concerned Ministries at Federal and Provincial level should be directed to allocate necessary funds and resources for improvement in jails and establishment of Prisoners Voluntary Donations Fund at provincial level be ensured.

The report suggested that Pakistan Bar Council and Provincial Bar Councils should be advised to provide free legal aid to prisoners and especially, to the Under-Trial Prisoners and for appeal purpose.

Discussing the province-wise breakup, the Sindh Prisons Department submitted that due to pandemic COVID-19, Oversight Committees are not paying visits to the prisons and as soon as situation improves, the committees will be requested to visit prisons and submit visit reports. Home Department, Sindh informed that construction work of three new prisons one each at Thatta, Shaheed Benazirabad and Malir Karachi was in progress. On completion of construction work of these new prisons, proposal for construction of more new prisons will be submitted to government of Sindh for approval.

Sindh Prisons Department reported that efforts for digitizing prisons and linking biometric in jails with courts were under way with the help of UNODC. Ground work has been completed, systems have been installed, networking at prisons had been completed and training had also been imparted to prisons staff to manage / operate the system. Prison Management Information System (PMIS) will be formally launched by March, 2021.

Discussing the situation of Punjab, the report said Prisons Department, Punjab submitted that both Oversight and Welfare Committees had been constituted and notified in all Prisons of the province and these Committees were functional and were contributing to the welfare of prisoners as well as improvement in the mechanism of the accountability. Directorate of Reclamation and Probation, Punjab had been converted into the Punjab Probation and Parole Service Department under the supervision of Director General (BS-20) instead of Director (B-19). The Parole Act, 2019 and Amendment in Good Conduct Prisoners Probational Release Act, 1926 had been approved by the provincial Cabinet in its meeting held on 24.12.2019. Both Acts would be placed before the Provincial Assembly by the Law Department. Chief Minister, Punjab has constituted the Parole Board to scrutinize the eligibility of prisoners to be released on parole. Prisons Department, Punjab submitted that all district of Punjab had the facility of prisons except Chiniot, Nankana and Khushab. 622-Kanal & 4-Marla land for District Jail, Nankana Sahib in a compact block, and case referred to Punjab Board of Revenue to transfer the land to the Punjab Prisons. 1076 kanal and 7 marla land for construction of District Jail, Chiniot was identified. A new site for construction of District Jail, Khushab had been identified by the Committee. Conversion of 45-Judicial Lock-ups into sub Jail one at Pindi Bhattian (Authorized capacity of 200-prisoners) while at Samandri (Authorized capacity of 200-prisoners) another at Gojra (Authorized capacity of 200-prisoners).

Punjab Prison Department had launched Prisoner Management Information System (PMIS) in collaboration with the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) and UNODC in order to ensure more efficiency and accountability in the functioning of the prisons; to ensure 100% court appearance of under-trial inmates; and to have complete databank of all inmates. The integrated system will contain the whole process of trail including the registration on FIRs, the submission of challan, judgment of courts, execution of sentence in prisons and finally to the release of prisoners. Subsequently, the said integration would also be linked with the Offenders Management System. Moreover, 9 Central Jails and 9 Divisional ATC have been linked to respective Central Jails for video link trial, the same will also be installed in all remaining jails of the District in the coming years.

About Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa the report stated that the provincial Home/Prisons Department has constituted Provincial Oversight Committees (POCs) and District Oversight Committees (DOCs) and members of these Committees were visiting different jails for improvement of life of prisoners in jails especially for children, women and destitute/resourceless prisoners. It reported that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rule of Law Road Map, improving “The service structures of Reclamation & Probation Department” has been identified and declared as one of the priorities. KP Probation of Offenders Act 2018 has been approved by the Chief Minister and is being placed before the Cabinet for approval. Moreover, amendments in Good Conduct Prisoners Probational Release Rules, 1927 have been proposed and submitted to Law Department for vetting.

Prisons Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa submitted that construction work of Central Prison, D.I. Khan (Phase-I) has been completed and the work regarding construction of Barracks, hospital wards and cells etc. (Phase-II) is in progress. In phase-I land acquisition, boundary wall and tubewell work of District Jail Swabi (Phase-I) has been completed whereas in phase-II, work regarding construction of staff residences, administration block, prisoners barracks, cells etc. will be started. Re-construction/improvement work of District Jails, Swat and Hangu was in progress. AIP Scheme for renovation of 15 Sub jails has been started. It was reported that Prison Management Information System (PMIS) has the Biometric Identification Application which is installed in the 7 jails of the province but it is not centralized yet and has no interface among jails, courts and NADRA.

Narrating the matter of Balochistan province, the report said the Balochistan home department submitted that DOCs consisting of retired professors/officers have been constituted and these committees have started visits of different jails of the province. Home & Tribal Affairs Department, Balochistan has constituted Parole Committee. Moreover, establishment of Reclamation & Probational Divisional Headquarters has been approved in PSDP 2019-20 at a cost of Rs.250 million. The Home Department had reported that since Balochistan was sparsely populated and prison population was sparse too, 22-judicial lockups were currently functional along-with 11-prisons which are sufficiently meeting the requirements of the province. Work regarding construction of Central Prison, Loralai, District prison Killa Saifullah, District Prison Harnai & District Prison Gawadar was in process.

Ministry of Interior, Islamabad earlier had submitted that 720 kanal land for Islamabad Model Prison was acquired in Sector H-16, Islamabad. PC-I for construction work of the prison has already been approved at a cost of Rs.3.9 billion. Expected date of completion of the project was 30th June, 2020. However, M/o Interior had submitted that the CDA Board in its meeting held on 31-01-2013 allotted 90 acres land to ICT for construction of modern jail in Northern half of H-16 Sector instead of Southern half. The northern half of H Sector including H-16 was earmarked for green belt. ICT was issued allotment letter on 14-02-2013 subject to the approval of the Prime Minister. Pak.PWD during the construction of jail displaced boundary wall of jail toward the west in the alignment of 17th Avenue instead of the original plan. CDA was requested to convene a Board meeting for amendment in the Master Plan of Islamabad to the extent of 9 adjustment in the alignment of 17th Avenue due to westwards displacement of the boundary of model prison.