Friday, June 16, 2006

Prisons of shame

The killing of the deputy superintendent of Karachi's central jail ought to lead to scrutiny of conditions inside Pakistan's jails. While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the murder of Amanullah Khan Niazi, the speculation has centred on enemies Niazi made inside the jail he helped run.

As the following excerpt from a PBS Frontline report indicates, Niazi had no shortage of enemies inside the prison:

I went to the Karachi Central Jail, in which more than 5,000 prisoners are incarcerated, including some of the most notorious terrorists. As I passed through to the inside, it struck me how primitive life has remained here. For example, there are no X-ray machines to monitor what guards or visitors might try to smuggle inside. The prison can't afford these machines.
When I met with the jail's superintendent, Amanullah Khan Niazi, he showed me his badly scarred arm. Last year, while Niazi was on a routine walk through the cellblocks, a militant threw boiling water mixed with sulphuric acid on him. Niazi was lucky to escape with only a burned arm. "These people are not scared at all," said Niazi. "They are capable of building bombs with sugar, fertilizer and some chemicals, and they are convinced that their ideology will lead them to heaven."
Reporter Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy visits Karachi Central Jail where some of Pakistan's most notorious terrorists are held.
Jail is meant to help reform people, but the militants in the Karachi Central Jail vow to return to their past activities as soon as they are free. "We have tried our best to convince them to change their ways," said Niazi, "but they tell us that they will fight until they die and that they will get new recruits in the process. These are very dangerous people."

In 1996 the UN's Special Rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment published a scathing report on prison conditions in Pakistan, and it's safe to say that not much has changed in the past decade. While the Supreme Court has taken note of the unlawful use of fetters on child prisoners, a 2003 special report by The News on Sunday indicates the acuteness of the problems that still plague the country's jails.

Amanullah Khan Niazi, three other policemen and an innocent bystander lost their lives in Karachi today. Their killers should be brought to justice. But so should the perpetrators of crimes inside our jails.


Teeth Maestro said...

I strongly condemn the attacks, don't get me wrong but at the same I have heard that DSP Niazi has been responsible for some killings within the premises of Central Jail. So my heart actually screams good riddance, but that does not give anyone the right to kill

Extiinct said...

Hey, I just read the comments on your post at KMB. You had a rough time but you held your own =)

- Samar
A fellow KMB author [one of the new ones]