In a country with as unique a security situation as Pakistan’s, one would expect a robust judicial and detention system to be in place, erring on the overbearing side. It therefore seems quite unbelievable that only now it is inaugurating its first ‘high security prison’. It took two spectacular jailbreaks in 2013, one in Bannu and the other in Dera Ismail Khan, to open the eyes of the government; at long last the new prison in Sahiwal, based on the Turkish ‘F-Type’ model, is to commence operations.

The inauguration is just in time for Pakistan’s push against militancy and would greatly facilitate the process. Pakistan’s existing prison system is at breaking point, if not broken already; the prisons house 33,000 more prisoners than the official capacity, leading to extreme overcrowding. Coupled with an archaic housing model which contains communal barracks and an extremely flawed oversight system means that inmates are kept in extremely inhumane conditions, are subjected to continuous human rights violations and can easily obtain contraband – a search operation in Hyderabad Jail after the 2011 riots recovered six pistols, one rifle, hundreds of mobile phones and a large quantity of locally made liquor from the cells, as well as cannabis which was grown on the premises. On the terrorism front, these lapses can be deadly, militant leaders can freely communicate with their subordinates outside of the walls, have large audiences in the communal housings, including juveniles, to which extremism can be preached – Mumtaz Qadri comes to mind – and mass jailbreaks are always a possibility. The Sahiwal high security prison solves much of this; isolated cells, modern surveillance, a specialized staff and a large security detail means that terrorists could be safely housed away from the general prison population. Yet one prison with a capacity of 1,044 is not going to be enough, similar prisons need to be constructed in other provinces. Terrorism remains the top priority, yet organized crime presents similar problems, more high security prisons along the lines of Sahiwal could perhaps accommodate notorious mobsters and violent criminals. Beyond just increasing detention facilities, a prison system overhaul is sorely needed.

The new prison comes with its own set of problems; the Turkish F-Type prisons have come under extreme pressure from human rights group for perpetuating inhumane treatment. Organizations such as Amnesty International have protested the fact that the design emphasises solitary confinement to the extent that it can seriously harm the mental wellbeing of inmates. Instances of torture and arbitrary punishments in Turkey were discovered almost exclusively in F-Type prisons; this could be a feature of the administration. With Pakistani prison administration in shambles compared to Turkey’s, and violations rampant in general penitentiaries, the state must guard against inhumane treatment in the prison.