This is the place you die (and we are the ones to kill you)

Published: October 13, 2010

Prisoners have rights and it is jails that must enforce them

A few hours ago a colleague brought a disturbing news story to my attention. The story was about the torture and humiliation of several death-row prisoners at the Toba Tek Singh District Prison.

The prisoners were all brought out and beaten, supposedly during a search for mobile phones, but three were stripped naked and their private parts were taped so they could not urinate by a prison dispenser.  It didn’t end just there; they were made to drink 3 to 4 litres of water and administered injections that would make them want to urinate. The tape was not removed until four hours later. Not surprisingly, the three prisoners developed renal ailments as a result of the torture and one has also developed a urinary tract infection.

It has been 15 days since Human Right Commission of Pakistan official’s brought the incident to the attention of the Punjab prison chief and requested  an inquiry. There has been no response. This indifference is evidence of the missing  checks and balances in our state run institutions.

It is astounding to see the inhumane treatment our institutions mete out their own citizens. The prisoners may have been deemed delinquents by society but they still had rights, which cannot be violated by anyone. We are the population who were horrified and protested at incidents of torture in Abu Ghuraib – a prison in Iraq – why, then,  are we silently letting this one go?

Do death-row prisoners deserve to be mistreated and punished till they are executed by the state? After the Sialkot lynching incident the fundamental flaw in giving state run institutions (specifically the police unregulated powers) has become even more apparent than ever before.

Is it not enough that our feudal landlords have private prisons that they run without any checks or balances.  Will our state run prisons run unchecked too?

On October 3 the inmates of Dera Ghazi Khan central jail revolted against jail administration after four prisoners were allegedly tortured. Nearly 170 central jail inmates perched on the rooftops of the jail with bricks and stones forcing police officials to vacate the premises.“We decided that we could not stand by and let the torture of other inmates continue,” said an inmate, Safdar.

Could it be a mere coincidence that the inmates of various jails around the province are being mistreated on a daily basis or has this always been the unofficial policy of the jail administration?

Rights of prisoners came in to question this summer when a new report stated that the cable television was to be banned in all jails in Sindh. According to the report, prison officials felt that cable TV “encouraged prisoners to protest the administration.” However, inmates claimed that the administration was attempting to cut them off from the world and would not even allow them to meet friends and family.

It must be questioned why our institutions resort to violations of the Convention against Torture and more efficient policies cannot be put into place to diminish the cruelties suffered by often innocent bystanders in the jail.

It is equally appalling for prisoners to be manhandled and tortured as it was for the Sialkot brothers to be publicly lynched with police officials present. Denying inmates their only source of entertainment on the basis of intelligence of search operations is rather ludicrous. Are the police really as helpless in this matter as they are pretending to be?

The actions of the police and jail administrations are only leading to further chaos and anarchy in jails across the province, and the inmates will soon resort to desperate measures of their own.


Hassaan Khan

A sub-editor on the national desk of The Express Tribune. He graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sheryar taseer

    Good work! We need more investigative reporting to uncover the human rights violations conducted by our own government. ThanksRecommend

  • Maryam

    everyone is deprived of their rights in this country, let alone the prisoners.
    but the incident you quoted is scary and it is negligence and inhuman attitude at its peak.Recommend

  • Dia

    It has been 15 days since Human Right Commission of Pakistan official’s brought the incident to the attention of the Punjab prison chief and requested an inquiry. There has been no response. Doesnt surprise me.. it has been 2 months to sialkot incident and no outcome.. even the challans have not been submitted. More than 2 weeks to second autopsy and nothing on that either.. Responses occur in civilized societies only!! Recommend

  • shaista

    Apparently no one cares about prisoners unless they are beaten by Americans. If Pakistanis do it – that is pefectly fine. When Aafia Siddiqi is beaten by a prison guard she becomes the daughter of Pakistan. Are these men – hundred – thousands of them – being tortured every day – not our sons and brothers too?Recommend

  • Saqib

    Our left liberals like this writer go to all the extremes to please the west. Please put your record straight she was handed over to US in 2004 (As was originally pointed out by human rights activists about 652 prisoner) Zafar Ullah Jamali has publicly admitted this. It was only the mounting pressure which caused Yankies to mock up a case of firing etc which is highly dubious till date. I am really saddened by so called liberals of this country. Recommend

  • Kathy

    Really an eye-opening article! What a brutal and inhuman attitude towards prisoners! I suggest the same kind of torture be given to those jail administrator and others involved in this crime against humanity. Where are the so-called Human Rights Activists? Recommend

  • Areebah Shahid

    you deserve appreciation for writing about something that certainly needs to be brought to the limelight – all of which is conventionally allocated to to non-issues! That said it is not the first time that such an incident has taken place within the confines of a jail and its frustrating that nothing substantial has come out of the pleas raised by human rights organizations. When our law enforcers indulge in such barbarianism then i wonder why we express shock at crazy mobs…Recommend

  • piggy

    Impressed marketRecommend

  • Zayed Haris

    good effort! though writing skills might require some attentionRecommend