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Pakistan's under-trial prisoners seek rights and better living conditions

ANI | Updated: Jun 06, 2021 08:56 IST

Islamabad [Pakistan], June 6 (ANI): Undertrial prisoners incarcerated in the Camp Jail Lahore have appealed to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to ensure the provision of the "very few rights guaranteed to prisoners under the outdated British prison manual".
The News International reported that prisoners locked in the Camp Jail Lahore wrote an open letter to Punjab Chief Minister and appealed to ensure the provision of the "very few rights guaranteed to prisoners under the outdated British prison manual".
The letter stated that under-trial prisoners are not the same as convicts as "their trials are pending, (and) in the eyes of the law they are innocent until proven guilty".

They point out that Pakistan has ratified international conventions and the United Nations standards, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, that mandate in Rule 5 that "the prison regime should seek to minimize any differences between prison life and life at liberty that tend to lessen the responsibility of the prisoners or the respect due to their dignity as human beings".
Thus, by law, their living conditions "ought to be close to their life outside jail as they are not under punishment." However, in reality, they suffer the same harsh conditions as convicts, prisoners lament in letter.
The letter is divided into four parts: enabling laws, changes that can be made immediately through a simple directive, reforms related to jail, and reforms related to the transport of prisoners.
The letter states that with a single directive, the Punjab Home Department can improve the living condition of under-trial prisoners by taking the following seven steps: allowing home food immediately for all under-trial prisoners who wish to avail this facility instead of forcing them to move the courts to gain this right; allowing five basic items such as a pillow, mattress, chair, table and a TV in accordance with Section 31 of the Prisons Act which gives the right to a prisoner "to maintain himself and to keep necessaries"; revising the time allowed at a public call office from 20 minutes per week to 300 minutes per month in line with what is allowed to prisoners in the USA; doing away with the PTV-only restriction and allowing cable TV connections so that "prisoners do not remain uninformed". The letter suggests that private cable TV operators should be allowed against a monthly fee in the same manner as monthly newspaper and TV fees are already being collected from prisoners.
The prisoners claim that this step will greatly reduce depression and anxiety among prisoners and will lead to a sharp reduction in negative incidents in jail; allowing an air cooler in the summers to survive the heat; enforcing an immediate ban on all kinds of physical beatings by jail staff; preventing inhumane conditions in the prisoners' punishment block. (ANI)