Pakistan’s jails remain vulnerable to attacks from terrorists, who have grown more bold having previously conducted successful jailbreaks in DI Khan and Bannu, freeing hundreds of inmates absent any noteworthy resistance. The most recent plot was foiled by Rangers, when a house was raided in Ghausia colony, located approximately 100 feet from jail premises, and a 45 meter long tunnel leading to the Karachi Central Jail was discovered. The perpetrators were merely 10 meters short of their destination at the time of the raid, as revealed by Deputy DG Sindh Rangers Colonel Tahir Mehmood. This would qualify as a close call. While security agencies deserve to be congratulated for successfully performing their duty on this occasion, some attention should be focused on identifying factors which contribute to the vulnerability of the country’s jails, and the steps that need to be carried out to ensure their safety.

As far as the Karachi Central Jail is concerned, its very location is problematic. Its close proximity to heavily populated residential areas makes it considerably difficult to maintain security and in the event of an attack, nearby residential areas will allow immediate cover for the perpetrators making it harder for law enforcement agencies to react. How many jails In Pakistan are located in similar, unsuitable locations? Sindh Minister for Prisons, Manzoor Wasan’s suggestion of shifting the jail to a more appropriate location should be taken seriously. Furthermore, are these jails sufficiently guarded? The thin security at jails in Bannu and DI Khan meant that the militants faced no resistance. They arrived and left unchallenged. Have additional personnel been deployed at sensitive jails to prevent similar incidents from occurring again? There is also the issue of poor performance by the jail staff. That attacks on judges and others were previously found to have been planned and partially executed from within the jail indicates that routine and thorough inspections are not carried out, which is a critical error. There are also reports of corruption which enables favourable treatment of powerful inmates who remain active while imprisoned. It is crucial to have an intense screening process in place to prevent collusion, and those found guilty of negligence or complicity should be taken to task. A mere transfer letter sending them to a less desirable location will not suffice. Since these jails house high-profile terrorists, it is only reasonable to assume that their colleagues will attempt to rescue them if an opportunity were to present itself. Poor location, inadequate security, lack of screening and corruption, failure to conduct inspections – all these factors help to create opportunities for miscreants. Putting sensitive jails on high alert for a few weeks following every incident while taking no concrete steps to rectify long-standing flaws will ensure that they remain vulnerable. Law enforcement agencies got there just in time – this time.