August 14, 2018

Caretakers embroiled in controversies

News Source: Express Tribune

Writer: Sardar Sikandar

ISLAMABAD: The caretaker set-up’s competence is being questioned after a spate of recent controversies in connection with the detention of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, in Adiala Jail.

The jail authorities and caretaker governments at the Centre and in Punjab as well as the district administration of Rawalpindi have no inkling about how Maryam Nawaz managed to tweet twice from Adiala Jail on Saturday and Sunday.

She is serving a seven-year rigorous imprisonment term after being convicted by an accountability court in the Avenfield Apartments reference.

Under the rules, she is not allowed access to cellphones and internet in jail.

Some veteran leaders of the PML-N insisted that Maryam had no access to either a cellphone or internet in jail, but her son, Junaid Safdar, was using her mother’s twitter handle to send ‘emotional’ tweets.

Meanwhile, the authorities concerned were reluctant to discuss the matter.

Junaid Safdar, PML-N stalwarts said, had recently met his mother in Adiala Jail, who shared her twitter account password with him.

Requesting anonymity, a senior police official, who once served in Rawalpindi, said that these tweets merited a through inquiry.

“Messages are being sent from the social media account of a convicted prisoner. This is very serious. This needs to be thoroughly investigated,” he said.

“Only a detailed yet speedy inquiry can determine if the prisoner had illegally accessed her phone and internet to send out the tweets in question or someone had done this on her behalf.”

This is not the first time that officials of the caretaker government are facing fierce criticism.

Their indecision regarding whether or not to send Sharif and Maryam to Sihala Police Training College Rest House or to keep them at Adiala Jail topped everything else.

On July 13, the office of the chief commissioner, Islamabad, had issued a notification stating that Sharif and Maryam would be kept at the Sihala Police Training College Rest House in Islamabad.

This notification was withdrawn and the chief commissioner’s office issued a fresh one, stating that only Maryam would be kept in the rest house and Sharif would be kept in Adiala Jail.

Again, this notification was withdrawn too and a third notification was issued early Saturday morning. It stated that both Nawaz and Maryam would be kept in Adiala Jail.

In another twist, reports surfaced that the authorities had decided to send Maryam to Sihala guest house. But this decision was ‘postponed’ reportedly after the former PM’s daughter refused to be shifted.

Former secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Kanwar Dilshad said: “A convicted prisoner has no authority to choose where he or she will be detained. The caretakers are thoroughly embarrassing themselves. It seems that they are trying to kill two birds with one stone: They want to implement a court order but at the same time they did not want to offend the powerful Sharifs.”

Dilshad wondered why the administration and jail authorities were indecisive about where to keep the Sharifs.

“Some reports say Maryam and her father would be shifted to Sihala. Then new reports emerge, saying only Maryam will be shifted. Then we hear that the decision has been postponed because Maryam does not want to leave Adiala. I fail to understand why they should be shifted to a rest house instead of jail and if the authorities have decided to do so, they should stand by their decision.”

The ex-secretary ECP said that if it was established that Maryam accessed her phone or internet, strong action should be initiated.

“The caretakers have been an absolute disappointment so far. They must improve their performance to mend their tarnished reputations.”

Recent news reports suggested that Sharif was being denied B-class, while his daughter was being kept in an ordinary barrack for women prisoners.

Government officials insisted that all three high-profile inmates – Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar – had been granted B-class.

Under existing jail rules, an inmate entitled to B-class is entitled to a bed, mattress, television, refrigerator, newspapers, two bracket fans, a ceiling fan and an attached washroom. The inmate is also entitled to a helper and has to pay for all these facilities.

However, air conditioner, mobile phone and internet are not permissible to any jailed prisoner.

According to existing rules, an inmate can be assigned either of the two classes; B-class or ordinary class.

The rules have now been amended, abolishing the previous tiers of A, B and C classes.

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