In a shocking exposure, a Pakistani provincial minister posing as a common man was able to enter a high-security prison in Lahore without showing any identification after he paid bribes of Rs 1,300 to officials.
Chaudhry Abdul Waheed Arain, recently appointed Prisons Minister in the country's largest province of Punjab, said his move was aimed at ending corruption within jails.
Arain bought his way into the Camp Jail in Lahore, where he had gone on Friday posing as an ordinary citizen who wanted to meet a prisoner. The guards at the gate asked him for his identity card but allowed him in without seeing it when he paid Rs 700. The minister said he was stopped at several points between the gate and the barracks and asked for bribes.
He paid a total of Rs 1,300 to jail officials, who did not take away his cell phone. "I was shocked at the behaviour of the prison guards. They asked for bribes at every step of the way and let me enter without even seeing my ID card," Arain told the media. Inside the jail, Arain was able to roam freely and interacted with the families of some prisoners, who told him about difficulties they faced.
Arain said he was surprised to learn that "special meetings" in a room could be arranged by prisoners who paid bribes. Arain was asked to pay another bribe when he was leaving the prison. At this point, he declared his identity and the officials began apologising, the minister said. Camp Jail Assistant Superintendent Kashif Rasool, head warden Latif Shah and wardens Sajjad Hussain and Muhammad Saifullah were later suspended. The minister ordered a departmental inquiry while the Prisons Department formed a committee headed by a DIG to probe corruption in jails.
Arain has said he plans to make surprise visits to jails throughout Punjab province. The minister's experiences exposed the shocking lack of security in jails in Punjab. The incident has also given credence to allegations that prisoners who fatally attacked Indian national Sarabjit Singh in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail in April were provided weapons like blades from outside, sources said. There are reports that criminals and terrorists have been operating from jails across Punjab as they are able to remain in constant touch with their accomplices outside by using mobile phones.