Adiala Prison: Pakistan's Very Own Abu Ghraib
by Hector Aleem
I am sharing some important facts of Adiala Prison, which is the model jail of Pakistan and is famous for its civilized condition. If this is the condition of civilized prison than you can imagine the condition of other prisons of Pakistan. This is only what I have seen during four years of my illegal detention for false accusations, what happened to me will be written in my next article.
Superintendent and deputy superintendent of Jail gathered all the Christian prisoners and in no uncertain terms ordered them to refrain from any religious activities including prayer sessions. The Christian prisoners, some of them having under graduate - post graduate academic qualifications were assigned janitorial duties simply because they were Christians. Those resisting such orders were warned of harsh punishment in the form of routine beating, torture and other inhumane acts if they did not toe the line. Those Christian prisoners that disobey such orders are beaten till they succumb to their injuries, The Above mentioned officials of Adiala Jail conveniently labeling such death in custody as ‘Suicides’. In the absence of post mortem, how can it be determined whether the prisoner died a natural or injury inflicted death. Simply they ordered Christians to perform the dirty duty like toilet washing and gutter cleaning due to their faith.
Other Christian prisoners who are in fear cooperate with these officials by doing janitorial duties are not provided adequate safety equipment. The concept of gloves and proper footwear is alien to our comprehension. Such prisoners develop various skin related diseases eventually succumbing to their injuries without any compensation from the authorities.
The penal system was introduced by the civilized world to rehabilitate those who committed crimes. Prisons serve as a useful deterrent to crime as well as confining hardened criminals for extended periods of time thereby ensuring non repetition of crimes as well as ensuring the safety of law abiding citizens.
Undoubtedly criminals who do the crime must do the time; it is the period of detention as well as the quality of life of prisoners that differs worldwide. In developed nations, prisons are well managed by professionals who respect the fundamental rights of each prisoner. Prisoners are human being and have to be properly cared for during the entire period of their incarceration. First and foremost it is vital that prisoners are adequately fed and clothed. Religious freedom and visitation rights must be respected. If prisoners show keen interest in pursuing further education, the authorities must oblige. A reformed prisoner will be better able to re-adjust into society after serving his time. In developing countries however, prisons are misused for a variety of purposes. Innocent people are falsely accused by politicians, bureaucrats and law enforcement agencies of crimes they did not commit. It is such gross human rights violations that we like to highlight. The prison in question this time is not Abu Ghraib but our own Adiala Prison.
Adiala prison is located in Rawalpindi. It was originally designed to house inmates but now has more than five times that number. Cramped quarters, unhygienic living conditions, unpalatable food, inadequate healthcare facilities, absence of educational inducement, denial of religious freedom, routine torture, regular gang rape and sodomy both by wardens and hardened criminals, denial of visitation rights, confiscation of gifts and food from well-wishers are
Adiala has seen many wardens over the decades. Interestingly enough each new warden brazenly flouts the law more than his predecessor. Either the government has a special training camp where senior law enforcement officials receive training on how to excel in human rights violations or these wardens are chosen from a huge list of renowned sadists. According to my experience, even President and Prime Minister of Pakistan ignore any complaints against atrocious conditions in Adiala and prefer to ignore any plea. It seems the more complains direr the situation gets. Perhaps it’s the governments’ way of reminding that they are not prepared to except any criticism of their head handed tactics.
Christian prisoners who dare to air their grievances to the concerned authorities or for that matter human rights organizations or NGO’s face severe punishment from wardens who simply cannot tolerate whistle blowers. Just who do these prisoners turn to, to redress their grievances? Knowing the docile characteristics of Christians, wardens deliberately inflict more inhumane punishment on Christians simply to satisfy their ego as well as earn promotion for a job well done.
The Pakistan government and Pakistani electronic and print media is quick to point out the harsh treatment to prisoners in far away places like Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo but prefer to close both eyes at the atrocities that occur in prisons within their own domain. The government fails to take into account that prisoners serving time in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo are war criminals or terrorists who have committed crimes against humanity and are meted out exemplary punishment, but the Christian prisoners here in Pakistan are neither terrorist nor war criminals and have never committed crimes against humanity in the name of religion or for that matter any other warped ideology. Christian prisoners are largely in prisons for minor crimes. Moreover these Christian prisoners are Pakistani citizens and deserve equal treatment as enshrined in the Constitution.
Access to prisoners to conduct proper investigation into their allegations is rare to say the least. The prison authorities will prevent outsiders from mingling with prisoners, least their deceptive and atrocious behavior will surface. Peace Worldwide want an immediate reinstatement of religious worship and regular prayer for Christians. Moreover all janitorial duties must be equally shared by all prisoners irrespective of their religious background. After all Muslim prisoners (who are in larger numbers in Adiala prison) are equally responsible for creating an unhygienic environment, so they are just as responsible for the clean up process.
Also, an access to hospital should be given to all those Christian prisoners who have suffered injuries due to the barbaric acts of prison authorities. We would also like to see all Christian prisoners provided proper healthcare facilities and are not subjected to further physical torture. An independent body should be created to oversee any human rights violations that occur in prisons all over Pakistan. Prison Wardens and other officials must either be suspended or removed from service when they are found guilty of human rights violations. These same officials must serve time in the very prison they committed these violations. International organisations should be allowed to meet regularly with all prisoners especially Christian prisoners, to better understand first-hand the situation that currently exists in Adiala Prison. Though it is difficult for them to let these organisations visit and point out the human rights violation in the prison but if somehow any international organisation visits, they make them visit the dummy places which are free of violation and any inhumane activity and give them EVERYTHING IS OKAY report.
Enough is enough. Christians are fed up with the discriminatory, despicable and unwarranted behavior of the Pakistani government, the law enforcement agencies as well as the Muslim masses of Pakistan. Up until now Christians have been quiet on all fronts preferring to maintain the status quo but such inaction has further deteriorated the basic rights of all Christians in Pakistan.
Pakistan now enjoys a front seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Exposing their dirty laundry on the international forum will certainly infuriate their politicians and will only further confirm Pakistan status as a nation of ‘Hypocrites’. We warn government of Pakistan to correct them and follow the right path and do what is written in the jail manual and what they show to the international organisations.
Is Pakistan prepared to live with such demeaning expletive? Will ‘Enlightened Moderation’ be further strengthened or weakened by continuous human rights violations that occur regularly in Pakistan. The time has come for the Pakistani Government as well as the people of Pakistan to embrace ‘One Nation – One People’ culture which is far more difficult for both the government of Pakistan, ISI and other agencies to digest. Christians will not any longer tolerate erosion in their birth rights and demand equal status as Citizens of Pakistan. Peace Worldwide want religious freedom for Christians of Pakistan and the right to practice their religion without continuous interference from Islamists and Government of Pakistan. We also want appropriate punishment for Muslims for similar crimes that Christians unnecessarily are incarcerated for. The socio-economic picture should register an overall improvement benefiting all Pakistani citizens, not just Muslims.
We strongly urge the Government of Pakistan as well as International Human Rights organizations to help improve Pakistan’s poor human rights record. Religious extremism and racial vilification must be uprooted immediately. Senior government officials must refrain from personal prejudices while discharging their duties. Pakistan has very bad reputation. Christians would like to cooperate with the government and the people in improving the socio-economic situation, but more effort from government of Pakistan is required to achieve this objective.
Hector Aleem is the Chairman of Peace Worldwide, Islamabad, Pakistan.