“I know not whether laws be right,

Or whether laws be wrong;

All that we know who lie in gaol

Is that the wall is strong.”

– Wilde

Regrettably, it seems that the security of jails in Pakistan is not strong enough to resist an attack mounted by militants, who appear to be more focused and better trained. Worse, rampant corruption compounds the situation that has led to chaos and lawlessness in the country.

The Prison Department, indeed, has always been a low priority subject for successive governments. There have been so many security breaches in the near past that questions are being frequently asked about the country’s resolve to protect its vital installations, including nuclear weapons.

And despite a string of security lapses, no policy has been framed by the government that could effectively challenge the threat posed by militants. The D.I. Khan jailbreak, for example, is a case in point.

Apart from the menace of corruption, one cannot deny the fact that there is confusion and despondency in the state with no effort to rectify the situation. The democratically-elected governments have reacted to the D.I. Khan jailbreak, and the discovery of large amounts of drugs and mobiles in Jhang jail, which should have resulted in the resigning of the Provincial Minister of Prisons, just by admitting its failure to foresee the situation and take well timed and appropriate security measures. They have called in the rangers, as if they are the only solution to the problem.

Moreover, the militants claim that “friendly” police and “true Muslims” in the Prison Department helped them succeed both during the Bannu and D.I. Khan jailbreaks has set off alarm bells. But then no one seems to be listening. Hence, the disease has penetrated so deep that it needs to be dealt with on a war footing.

The non-reaction of ulemas too is not a good sign, if militancy and sectarian violence is to be controlled.

One may, therefore, ask: when will the political leadership and law enforcement agencies curb militancy and sectarianism with an iron hand?

It is also necessary to mention that the personnel deployed for jails’ security lack the required tools, training and level of commitment. Therefore, the decision of prison guards to run away, rather than stand their ground, has some justification.

One wonders as to when the elected governments, both federal and provincial, will realise their responsibilities to not only provide proper security for jails, but also ensure the state’s vital assets are protected. This will, indeed, deter future attacks, and send a loud and clear message to the international community that Pakistan is prepared and determined to protect its national interests and deliver a crushing blow to militants.

This, however, can only be achieved through complete unity between the political parties in Parliament. Otherwise, there would be more serious breaches of security, creating further confusion and despondency among the people, besides hurting Pakistan’s economy.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.