Stories about prison

The story of Baba Jan Hunzai

About a month ago, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told the world that there are no political prisoners in Pakistan. But allow me to bring to notice the case of a political prisoner who is close to me and one whom our government repeatedly tries to silence. His name is Baba Jan Hunzai. He is an activist for the Labour Party Pakistan and a leader of the Progressive Youth Front. Baba Jan, along with four fellow activists, spent the greater part of last year languishing inside various jails throughout Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). His story is not told in mainstream media but ...

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Prime Minister Gilani: Gone in 30 seconds

The pictures were baffling. Once a verdict is announced and the gavel comes pounding down, a convict is supposed to be handcuffed and bullied away by a team of hardnosed officers. This one was waving his unrestrained hands and ushered into safety by his colleagues. Those guilty of serious crimes serve endless sentences languishing behind bars, gripping them as if they were the only ones listening. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani served his in the air conditioned comfort of courtroom number four between the moments when Justice Nasirul Mulk uttered the short order and seven pattaywalas (court ushers) in starched white uniforms ...

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Mumtaz Qadri’s teachers: Of mousetraps, and mouse disposal

The problem with mousetraps is, one needs to pre-plan efficient mouse disposal.Less than two weeks after Mumtaz Qadri murdered Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, the two clerics Qadri said had ‘inspired’ him with their sermons, strolled out of the Rawalpindi Anti Terrorism Court on bail. Since their names hadn’t been mentioned in the Taseer FIR, the lawyer argued, there was no justification for debarring Mufti Hanif Qureshi and Qari Ishtiaq Shah from their… err, day jobs. This time, however, the laws are not at fault. With the Anti Terrorism Act, lawmakers erred on the side of paranoia, rather than just caution. Terrorism, ...

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They don’t regret murdering their husbands…

As I entered Karachi’s Central Jail for Juveniles and Women, I felt surprise. I was expecting to see rows of tall metal bars and darkness – but I realised that the Hollywood concept of jails was nowhere near reality. The place looked like more like a college hostel. Beds were placed in neat rows and there was a television in each barrack. I was pleased to see that my preconceived notion of jail did not apply here. Despite the jail’s pleasant appearance it was one of the worst days of my life and the visit was a life-changing experience. A college grad ...

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Where Dr Aafia Siddiqui will die

Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s  sentence to 86 years by New York judge Richard Berman sent shock waves around the world. Many of her supporters felt that it was just one step away from the death penalty. Sadly, this might be closer to the truth than they imagine. Not only did the judge impose an unprecedented sentence, he also personally intervened to make sure she would serve it in one of America’s most brutal institutions. In short, Dr Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to death – because if she remains in the innocuous sounding Federal Medical Facility in Carswell, Texas, like many others who ...

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

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 ...

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