Stricter watch on condemned inmates, moles in Hyderabad prison

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HYDERABAD: Around 60 per cent work on making the outer walls of the Karachi central prison and Sukkur jail bombproof has been completed while only the process of tendering in the case of the Hyderabad central prison is nearing end, according to an official of the provincial prisons department.

The issue of security at and around the Hyderabad jail assu­m­ed urgency at the department on Friday when Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Lt Gen Asim Bajwa at a press briefing in Karachi disclosed that a plot to storm the jail, get a condemned prisoner freed and kill several inmates was foiled after 90 per cent planning to execute the attack was completed by a network of banned outfits.

According to Lt Gen Bajwa, the network had plotted to get freed Ahmed Omer Saeed Shaikh, who was sentenced to death on July 15, 2002 in US journalist Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder case.

According to an estimate, an amount of Rs500 million is to be spent on fortifying the Hyderabad jail’s outer wall to make it bombproof. “We have planned building a new outer wall alongside the existing one,” said a prison department official.

Around 42 high value targets (HVTs), as they are described in security jargon, are lodged in this colonial-era prison. They included 22 under trial prisoners (UTPs), six convicts and 14 condemned prisoners including Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh. The prison houses close to 1,800 prisoners including about 175 death row prisoners.

“Jail authorities keep shifting them from one prison to the other for security reasons,” said a source.

The audacious attacks on Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan jails by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to free their comrades raised fears of a similar attack on jails in Sindh. Since then, security in and around the Hyderabad prison has been tightened extraordinarily. Recen­tly, mobile jamming devices have been installed inside the jail.

The ISPR director general has referred to the arrest of some suspects in Hyderabad and a jail sepoy. Two of them, it is learnt, are residents of Karachi and settled in the Hussainabad area a few months back. The jail sepoy is identified as Asghar and said to have done a recce for suspected terrorists. “Asghar is reported to have shared details of security arrangements around the cell of Omer Sheikh with them,” said a source.

Security officials have been deployed at Sheikh’s cell for a round-the-clock watch. Sheikh is reported to have attempted suicide in Feb 2014.

Close to 150-strong district police force is deployed inside the prison while Rangers personnel are also there to maintain their full control of the prison.

Sheikh is frequently shifted to different cells although as per the jail manual an inmate on death row is to be kept in jail’s condemned ward.