Federal Ombudsman for removing irritants from Criminal Justice System

By Adnan Rafique

ISLAMABAD: Federal Ombudsman Syed Tahir Shahbaz said that his office has been making its utmost efforts to improve jail conditions, changing the mindset and to remove irritants of criminal administrative justice system.
Federal Ombudsman, in that regard, held an online meetings during last quarter due to corona pandemic with the four provincial chief secretaries/relevant stakeholders, press release said on Thursday.
The Federal Ombudsman Secretariat also presented its 7th quarterly implementation report in meeting on the progress of implementation in improving jail conditions of Pakistan. The report was presented in the Supreme Court in Suo Motu Case No.1 of 2016 by the Secretary WMS Dr. Jamal Nasir and Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmed Khokhar, Senior Adviser Law of Wafaqi Mohtasib Secretariat.
The progress of the Provincial, District Oversight Committees and Welfare Committees to improve life of prisoners especially children, women and destitute prisoners was discussed decisively with all the stakeholders of four provinces. All the provinces informed that they had already constituted District, Welfare and Provincial Oversight Committees and their regular meetings have been regularly conducted.
The Sindh government has not yet constituted its Provincial Oversight Committee and the Federal Ombudsman directed them to constitute and make it functional as early as possible. All the provinces informed that they had revisited the expansion of probation and parole facilities with certain recommendations so that pressure on accommodation facilities in jails could be curtailed. The Sindh government has notified amended “Sindh Prisons and Corrections Service Rules, 2019†and Sindh Prisons Correctional Act, 2019.
They ensured that the new laws would contribute and peaceful & safe society by confining all prisoners in safe custody by ensuring their legal and basic rights as per international conventions. The Government of Punjab has converted the Directorate of Reclamation and Probation into Punjab Probation and Parole Service Department under the supervision of BS-20 officer. The Chief Minister Punjab has also constituted a high level Parole Board to scrutinize the eligibility of Prisoners to be released on parole.
The Punjab government informed that the Parole Act, 2019 and Amendment in Good Conduct Prisoners Probational Release Act have been approved by the Cabinet and will be placed in the Provincial Assembly for approval as Act. The government of KP has also amended its Good Conduct Prisoners Probational Release Rules, 1927 and placed it before the provincial assembly for approval.
The Ombudsman was informed that one jail in Punjab and one in KP has been added, one Central jail in Peshawar and a sub jail in Basham, whereas the new jail in Islamabad Capital Territory is under construction on 720 kanals in I-16 sector with the cost of Rs.3.9 billion which is near to completion.
The Government of Sindh has earmarked Rs.1048.268 million for renovation of jails, Baluchistan has earmarked 250 million, Punjab has earmarked 550 million for renovation of jails as per updated standards. The KP government informed that re-construction work in 05 jails is underway.
Biometric System in jails in Punjab has been completed. Moreover, 9-ATC courts have been linked to respective jails for video link trial. KP has completed Prison Management Information System in seven jails and remaining jails are being completed under UNODC programme.
Whereas, Baluchistan has also signed an agreement with UNODC for Prison Management Information System and the work is in pipeline. All the provinces have already segregated drug users and mentally insane prisoners and they are given special attention and treatment. All the provinces have set up technical education and vocational centers in jails for provision of technical education.
Punjab Prison Department informed that during the last five years 241 prisoners appeared in Masters level programme, 425 in BA, 878 in intermediate exams and 15213 female and juvenile prisoners qualified technical courses. In KP 578 prisoners cleared different level exams, whereas, 122 inmates received religious education certificates.
In Sindh, most of the prisoners received technical education in different sectors. All the provinces have set up Free Legal Aid programmes with the help of UNODC and Bar Associations. The Organization of Mr. Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid is providing free legal aid in 20 jails of Sind.
Prisoner Aid & Legal Committee constituted by the Prime Minister of Pakistan under the headship of Barrister Ali Zafar is also working for free legal aid in Baluchistan. The government of Punjab paid Dyiat/Arsh etc. of 654 destitute prisoners as Rs.34,89,40,734 and Rs.21,16,73,303 as fine of 4218 prisoners during 2012 to 2020.
yed Tahir Shahbaz, Federal Ombudsman has asked the provincial governments to encourage the donors and educational institutions to play their fundamental role more effectively and efficiently. He has also directed the provincial authorities and federal government to place necessary funds for improvement in jails and to establish a Prisoners Voluntary Donations Fund.
The Ombudsman directed the Home Departments for early establishing high tech coordination system with the concerned departments i.e. Police, Prisons, Prosecution & NADRA for developing for implementation of biometric verification system / common interface for the prisoners throughout the chain from jails to courts within the shortest possible time. The following details of prisoners were submitted in the Apex Court.