Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah has said that jails have become “epicentres of crimes, corruption and corrupt practices” for the elite, rather than rehabilitative centres.
He issued these remarks while hearing a petition that brought to light the disparate maltreatment of prisoners and appalling conditions in Pakistani jails. The petition was filed by Dr. Irfan Iqbal, who has been incarcerated for 19 years.
In an application submitted to the Human Rights Cell of the IHC, Iqbal alleged that affluent, under-custody suspects continue to operate their land-grabbing businesses from behind bars, paying over Rs.10 million to prison authorities to receive preferential treatment.
Justice Minallah condemned such practices mentioned in the petition as unconstitutional, saying that preferential treatment for affluent prisoners was indicative of an unequal society. He stressed the responsibility of the state to provide duty of care to every prisoner, regardless of their economic status or the charges brought against them.
The court order read, “It appears that the phenomenon of elite capture prevails in the prisons across the country despite the fact that an implementation commission, headed by the worthy minister for human rights, was expected to ensure treatment of the prisoners in conformity with the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution and the commitments of the State of Pakistan with the international treaties and conventions.”
An investigation is ongoing and a report of the findings will be given by the authorities concerned before the next hearing on the matter on January 12.