Money Talks in Pakistan Jails

Rahim Gul was given a dreadful welcome when he first set his feet in Malir jail in the southern port city of Karachi on charges of attempted murder

Money Talks in Pakistan Jails
He was severely beaten up by jail staff before being asked to sit with other inmates in a queue for an inspection by a Bara Sahib (a jail high-up).

That jail official later turned out to be a senior inmate who had been assigned the task of interviewing the newcomers.

The interview, which entirely revolves around the inmates' financial abilities, determines their status for the rest of their stay in jail.

"I was an ordinary laborer, and could not grease the palm of the jail authorities," Gul told IslamOnline.net.

"In the first phase, I was forced to drink sewerage water, and sleep next to the filthy-beyond-thinking washroom in a barrack," he recalled.

"A senior colleague of mine, at the behest of jail authorities, put Naswar (a home-made drug which is a mix of tobacco and some chemicals) in my nose and eyes," added Gul.

Recently, he was sent to a ward where inmates with skin diseases are kept. Gul was eventually infected.

A laborer by profession, he has been in jail for three years pending a court judgment, simply because he does not afford a lawyer to secure his release on bail.

Independent State

Jail in this South Asian Muslim country is altogether a separate world.

Rather, it is a state within state, where the jail superintendent is an uncrowned king.

The entire jail system is run by Munshis, senior prisoners, who are assisted by Patels, relatively junior inmates, generally employed to torture or harass newcomers.

The inmates have all the freedom to cry over unexplainable excesses committed by jail staff because their screams cannot cross the rocky and tall walls of the jail.

A jail is generally divided into four portions.

The first comprises seven barracks and the corridor of the jail and is called Chackar.

The second consists of three barracks and is called division; the third comprises three barracks and is known as Kharish (itching) ward, while the fourth is called Dar-ul-Quran.

A short stay in the itching ward is enough to "convince" defiant inmates to kowtow to the jail administration.

A new prisoner has to pass through different stages to settle down in his barrack.

As soon as he crosses the corridor, he is given a harsh beating by his senior colleagues at the behest of the jail staff.

Later, he is interviewed by a Munshi, who is the head of the barracks division. He is the man who decides where a prisoner should be sent.

If at that stage, a newcomer manages to deal with the Munshi, the rest of the stages become easier. He can enjoy almost all the facilities which he does in this home.

Price List

A survey conducted by IOL reveals that in almost all the 16 jails in Sindh, the administration has set rates for the different services.

If a newcomer wants to settle down in a barrack, which is normally a 12/12 sq. feet or 12/14 sq. feet long and wide room, he has to pay Rs 3000 to Rs 50000 (50-80 dollars).

The rates vary depending on the nature of the crime and the financial standing of the inmates.

If a prisoner is convicted in high-ranking crimes like smuggling, murder, car lifting, snatching or kidnap for ransom, he has to pay more than a prisoner who is charged with dacoities, theft, mobile phone snatching and so on.

The rates of barracks are relatively higher in jails located in the urban areas than the rural areas.

For instance, in the district jail in Khairpur - a historical town of Sindh province - the rate of barrack is between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000 (50-170 dollars), while in Malir it ranges between Rs 5,000 and Rs 50,000 (80-850 dollars).

For a Kholi (a 7/7 size room), the rates are almost double than the rates set for a barrack.

These rates vary too in urban and rural jails. The rates for unofficial B-class range from Rs 200,000 to Rs 500,000 (3300-8000 dollars).

If a prisoner does not want to fall prey to different diseases caused by the jail food, he has to pay extra amount to the jail authorities.

After paying a set amount, he is allowed to get food from his home or any where else.

Mostly, the Munshis and Patels settle the financial matters with the inmates.

However, in case of some influential and wealthy prisoners, the deal is directly supervised by the superintendent or deputy superintendent.

Inmates and those who cannot grease the palm of jail authorities are served with a half piece of bread and a cup of tea for breakfast, two chappatis (thin bread) and a bowl of Daal (lentil) in lunch, and two chappatis and a small bowl of vegetable for dinner.

They do eat meat and fruits, but very rarely.

The holy fasting month of Ramadan is the favorite for them because they get meat, fruits and other food items, which they otherwise dream of.

According to jail rules, unlike convicted inmates, the under-trial prisoners are allowed to arrange food from their homes.

They, however, have to pay to the jail authorities to be able to enjoy this legal right.

Jail sources told IOL that a prisoner can spend sometime with his "friends" (women) in a separate room for Rs 3000 to 6000 (50-100 dollars).

Influential and wealthy inmates convicted for rigorous imprisonment, can simply buy their way out to Dar-ul-Quran.

Inmates reciting or memorizing the Holy Qur'an are exempted from rigorous imprisonment.

Jail sources say top-notch bandits and kidnappers remain in constant touch with their gang members while behind bars and operating their business via mobiles.

Paid Visits

Weekly meetings between the inmates and their family members are the most lucrative business for the jail administration.

As per jail rules, the "C" class prisoners are entitled to have two meetings a week with their family members.

They remain behind bars and talk to their family members and friends who stand at a 20-feet distance.

These weekly meetings present fish market scenes where hundreds of inmates and their callers at a time have to shout to air their respective messages to each other.

They have to loudly repeat their messages again and again so that their relatives would hear them.

This problem can simply be worked out if the inmate pays Rs 300 to Rs 600 (6-12 dollars) for an hour-long face-to-face meeting with family members.

In every jail, a separate room is allocated for such face-to-face meetings.

If the family members of any prisoner dare not pay the "fees" to the jail authorities, the next visit they would wait for hours to meet their dear one.

According to some estimates, jails located in big cities earn Rs 50,000 to Rs 80,000 (850-1350 dollars) per day from these meetings.

The amount is relatively lesser in jails located in rural areas, where the authorities make Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000 (350-650 dollars) a day.

The superintendents of the respective jails check the record of every day meetings and the money amassed against them. The money is proportionally distributed among the staff on daily basis.

"My parents live in my hometown. They don't have the money to hire a lawyer for me or even visit me," Rubina Anwar, a 22-year-old woman convicted of killing her husband, which she denies, told IOL.

She shares a 12/12-sq-feet barrack and a bathroom with 15 other women, whereas in normal condition this barrack could be used by not more than four persons.

According to official statistics, the sixteen jails located in Sindh province have the capacity of 8305 inmates but are packed with 18,405 prisoners.

The same applies to the remaining 70 jails across the country, bearing the burden of 64,352 inmates against their actual capacity of 28,290.

"That is why I have stopped thinking about my future. Sometimes I feel, I will spend the rest of my life here."
Last Mod: 19 Nisan 2007, 17:14
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