Rawalpindi’s central jail Adiala was originally built for 1,500 inmates but currently, it is housing around 4,000 prisoners.
The under-staffed prison in the twin cities has therefore failed miserably to ensure basic necessities to its inmates.
Deputy Superintendent of the jail during a hearing conducted by Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Athar Minallah on Friday admitted the jail was overcrowded and faced shortage of funds and staff, etc.
Justice Minallah on November 22 had taken up a letter written by a jail inmate Khadim Hussain who had drawn the court’s attention towards the poor conditions and prisoners’ rights violations in the jail. Turning the letter into a petition, the chief justice had sought reply from the Interior, Human Rights and Health Ministries respectively.
The court had also constituted a commission with Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari as its chairperson to look into human rights violations and lack of facilities in prisons. The court had also directed thorough medical examination and report on the prisoner Khadim Hussain’s health.
In Friday’s hearing, the chief justice was told by the jail staff that Adiala Jail was overcrowded and that there was no alternative jail or prisoners’ facility where they could be shifted.
“This speaks volumes regarding the neglect of executive authorities during the past several decades by failing to fulfil obligations on behalf of the state,” observed the chief justice.
He was of the view that the state of Pakistan being signatory to many international conventions is supposed to maintain a standard operational procedure with regard to taking care of the health and other rights of prisoners.
The chief justice also expressed his displeasure that neither a representative from HR Ministry nor from Ministry of National Health Services & Regulations had appeared before the court in pursuant to its November 22 orders. The court directed the secretaries of both the ministries to nominate a senior official not lower than the rank of Joint Secretary to appear on Saturday as the court would take up the matter even on a designated holiday, it declared.
During the last hearing, the chief justice observed if a person is handed jail term, this doesn’t mean his fundamental rights cease to exist, adding that ensuring health and fundamental rights of every prisoner is the government’s responsibility.
“Keeping in view the alarming state of affairs regarding the serious violation of human rights and civil liabilities of prisoners across the country, this court appoints a Commission headed by Ms Shireen Mazari, Minister of Human Rights,” the chief justice said in the last hearing.