Corruption, negligence rife at Jhelum district jail

JHELUM: Corruption, negligence, poor hygiene and insufficient health facilities coupled with insufficient security measures mean that the situation at the Jhelum district jail is extremely precarious with a malaise rooted in several layers of administration.

This was revealed in an inquiry report conducted by a senior civil judge of Jhelum.

In June 2017, a Jhelum district and sessions judge had visited the district jail. During the visit, a prisoner named Mumtaz had complained against the jail staff, accusing them of corruption and negligence.  When Mumtaz died at the district headquarters hospital under mysterious circumstances, it prompted the judge to order an inquiry.

Senior Civil Judge Shahbaz Hijazi was tasked to conduct the inquiry into the treatment of prisoners at the jail.

“I made surprise visits of the jail and stumbled across very shocking and disappointing facts,” Judge Hijazi wrote in the report.

According to the report, the jail is plagued with the corruption of officials, lawlessness with poor security arrangements. The prisoners openly carry cash with which they buy illegal favours and even their rights from jail officials including the head warden, the chief of the central tower and even the doctor.

In one incident, Judge Hijaz said a prisoner, Ghaffar Iftikhar — under trial for murder — had returned from a court hearing. While waiting for his transfer to his cell block, the judge asked if he was carrying any money, the prisoner said that he had Rs500 in his pocket. But when he was searched, Rs4,500 were recovered from his side pocket which the prisoner would have carried to the barracks.

“It is important to mention that no prisoner can take even a single penny in cash in the barrack. But, all prisoners are allowed to cash with them to their barracks to be used as illegal gratification,” the judge wrote in the report. To make matters worse, the judge said that when he saw the prisoner the next day, he was still carrying cash with him.

“There was no shadow of rules, no semblance of management or discipline, but total chaos pregnant with the potential seed to result in the tragedy which took place in July 2003 in the Sialkot district jail.”

Not only prisoners, by visitors too were fleeced by officials.

Lying officers

While questioning, Deputy Superintendent Tayyab, who was the in charge of the central tower, had misled the judge that he had been in the post for months. However, the duty roster belied that.

“My suspicion gravitated into evidence-based finding that there are serious issues of management; a clear case of serious misconduct on the part of the deputy superintendent and the superintendent of Jhelum district jail is made out.”

Poor food

The poor state of affairs at the jail extended beyond just corrupt officials or poor sanitation. The food provided to prisoners was also poor – if not injurious.

The prisoner’s property clerk was found running a private canteen in the jail.

Moreover, the food being provided to the prisoners was found to be half cooked. Wheat used to make bread for the prisoners was of such low quality that the bread gave off a pungent odour.

Jail hospital and prisoner death

Apart from in the cell blocks, officials in the jail clinic were also found to be involved in corrupt practices and of negligence.

The irregularities were found while probing the case of Mumtaz Bashir, who was treated for nearly two months at the hospital jail before being transferred to the Jhelum District Headquarters hospital where he eventually died in August 2017.

The report noted that the doctors who treated Bashir at the hospital jail were systematically and successively negligent in diagnosing and treating the patient.

It noted that medical officer Dr Anjum Gulzar did not properly note the weight of the victim, as required. The report noted that another patient, Waheed Akmal, said that Dr Gulzar was corrupt and takes illegal gratification from patients.

Curiously Dr Gulzar refused to record his statement in jail, preferring to do it in court.

Tuberculosis specialist Dr Adnan Najaf never asked Bashir about his symptoms or conducted a thorough diagnosis, advising treatment per visible symptoms.

Moreover, chest specialist Dr Hafeez declared that the prisoner’s chest was ‘clear’ without even consulting the chest radiograph and only advised a urine test and ultrasound of the abdomen despite the fact that the patient displayed clear symptoms of suffering from tuberculosis including a continuous cough, shortness of breath and losing much of his body weight.

“In view of the foregoing discussion, my finding is that primarily the superintended district jail, Jhelum, the deputy superintendent, the medical officer Dr Anjum Gulzar and the junior medical officer and male nurse Muhammad Hussain, Dr Adnan and Dr Hafeez the chest specialist are responsible for the death of the deceased,” the report concluded. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2018.

Advocate general Amanullah Kanrani represented the provincial government at the proceedings

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