Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday directed authorities to release women prisoners whose imprisonment was unjustified or had been made on shaky grounds, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office (PMO).
A source in the PMO reported that it was brought to the notice of the prime minister that a large number of female prisoners were facing imprisonment only because they were unable to pay petty fines, or had other minor issues.
The prime minister vowed that the government would bear all expenses for the release of women prisoners whose remaining sentence was less than three years and were serving imprisonment due to non-payment of petty fines, the source added.
‘Decision is in light of SC ruling, authorities to arrange funds to pay fines’
The prime minister directed the provinces and other authorities to generate funds through Baitul Mal and social welfare departments to pay fines of the women prisoners so that they could be released immediately.
In his tweets, Prime Minister Khan said he had issued the directions after a meeting with Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, the attorney general and Barrister Ali Zafar.
“I have asked for immediate implementation of SC order 299/2020 for release of under-trial women prisoners and convicted women prisoners who fulfill criteria of SC order,” he tweeted.
After a mtg with @mohrpakistan, Attorney General & Barrister Ali Zafar, I have asked for immediate implementation of SC order 299/2020 for release of Under Trial women prisoners & convicted women prisoners who fulfill criteria of SC Order.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) September 2, 2020
He also asked for “immediate reports on foreign women prisoners and women on death row for humanitarian consideration”.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari hailed the prime minister’s decision, calling it a “great move forward for human rights and humanitarian approach to prisoners”.
She further said PM Imran had also asked the ministry to provide him “a complete timeline on prison reforms implementation”.
In her tweet, she said: “This is just the start. PM has asked for a complete timeline on prison reforms implementation — our report on prison reforms is ready & now going to prepare implementation timelines with Barrister Ali Zafar.”
A great move forward for human rights & humanitarian approach to prisoners. This is just the start. PM has asked for a complete timeline on prison reforms implementation – our Report on prison reforms is ready & now going to prepare implementation timelines with Barr Ali Zafar https://t.co/mY9GmNSI9X
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) September 2, 2020
The prime minister was referring to an interim order issued in April, in which the apex court had directed the government to release prisoners suffering from a physical or mental illness, under-trial prisoners who were 55 or older, male under-trial prisoners who had not been convicted in the past, as well as female and juvenile prisoners.
Top court previously recalled bail granted to prisoners under-trial
The Supreme Court had recently recalled the bails granted to under-trial prisoners by the high courts of Sindh and Islamabad to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in over-crowded prisons earlier this year. However, it allowed the government to release prisoners who fell in the afore-mentioned criteria.
The prisoners included in the above categories had been spared on the counsel of the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP). The AGP had recommended to the apex court not to extend bails of prisoners accused in cases involving abuse or violent acts against children and women.
Later, in a TV programme, Barrister Ali Zafar said he attended the meeting on Wednesday in which the prime minister ordered immediate release of women and juvenile (children less than 16 years of age) prisoners. He said all provinces had been directed to make arrangements for their release.
“Under the prime minister’s directives, all women and juvenile prisoners will be released except those sentenced in severe cases like murder,” he added.
Barrister Zafar said according to a report of a committee formed by the prime minister six months ago, more than 500 women and juvenile prisoners were facing imprisonment in petty crimes and they would be released.
“Almost 75pc of the 500 prisoners are in Punjab and three to four in Balochistan,” he added. He said the report also suggested that women prisoners should be detained in jails in their hometowns or close to them and that women and juvenile prisoners should be kept in separate compounds. He, however, agreed that at present they were being detained in the same compounds where male prisoners were kept but in separate portions.
GVS News Desk