ISLAMABAD/Lahore - Nothing has changed as Adiala Jail reeks with manky stinks going back decades. Voices coming out of the jail about the maltreatment being meted out to three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are more or less the same as has been the case with political prisoners at the hands of the power that be.
Since the Central Prison Rawalpindi commonly known as Adiala Jail is the only prison near the federal capital, several high-profile political prisoners had been kept in the prison serving sentences. While some of them are no more alive and those who are still alive or incarcerating have their stories to tell how they had been humiliated and subjected to mental and physical agony while imprisoned behind the bars.
Prominent figures including four former prime ministers of the country, a former president, former parliamentarians, bureaucrats and people linked to big political personalities had tasted the torment of imprisonment in the jail.
Senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Siddiqul Farooq says that during the protest movement against the Pakistan People’s Party government in the early 90s, former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, his father Mian Mohammad Sharif, his son Abbass Sharif along with hundreds of second and third tier party leaders were imprisoned in Adiala Jail.
It was the time when sitting Rawalpindi Mayor Sardar Naseem cultivated good relations with Shehbaz Sharif as they were all kept in one barrack. Later, this camaraderie paved the way for Naseem to secure a party ticket and won the provincial assembly seat from Rawalpindi for the first time in 1996 elections.
The prominent figures in national politics who remained behind the bars in Adiala Jail included former president Asif Ali Zardari, former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Yousaf Raza Gilani, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, serving different sentences.
Besides these leaders, parliamentarians and bureaucrats, both civil and military, remained behind the bars in the jail facing either cases or serving terms awarded to them in various cases.
Senator Chaudhry Tanvir Khan, who was arrested in 2001 and implicated in a corruption case and remained behind the bars for well over one-and-a-half-year, says that he was put behind the bars only for hosting Kalsoom Nawaz whenever she visited the city to meet her son Hussain Nawaz at the Civil Lines Police Station in Rawalpindi.
Chaudhry Tanvir became famous among the political inmates because of his hospitality as the breakfast and sumptuous meals came from his residence for all the incarcerated people including Yousaf Raza Gilani, Intelligence Bureau former chief Brig (retd) Imtiaz, Air Vice Marshal (retd) Waqar Azeem, former federal minister and PPP central leader Syed Naveed Qamar and others.
These political stalwarts had been imprisoned in corruption scandals, mostly facing cases in accountability courts in Rawalpindi.
People like former senator and head of Ehtesab Commission during Nawaz Sharif’s government Saifur Rehman, his brother Mujeebur Rehman, top bureaucrat of PPP government Saeed Mehdi, who later became close to Nawaz Sharif, and some other bureaucrats also remained in Adiala Jail in those days.
Senator Chaudhry Tanvir recalled that his only fault was his support to Begum Kalsoom Nawaz, who in those days was spearheading the party while holding the portfolio of party’s head.
He further said that months after sending Nawaz Sharif and his other family members into forced exile, he was also bailed out and acquitted in the corruption cases instituted against him purely on political grounds.
He said that he developed close relations with all the political prisoners who had remained with him in the jail irrespective of their political affiliations.
Interestingly, former naval chief Admiral (retd) Mansoorul Haq also remained in the Adiala Jail in the early 2001 but later he was released after entering into a plea bargain with the National Accountability Bureau. He was also stripped off his rank and privileges.
Siddiqul Farooq, who also remained in Adiala Jail in 2001, expressed his grave concern over the way the three-time prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) of the country was being treated in the jail saying “such coercive tactics would fail to push Nawaz Sharf and his party against the wall”.
Recalling his around one-year incarceration in Adiala Jail in 2001, Farooq said he was not given a B-Class cell rather he was kept with convicts of heinous crimes where four persons were holed up in a small place containing an open bathroom in a corner.
He further said he was not allowed to see visitors while the jail authorities had also not provided him with a pen and papers despite repeated requests.
Other than famous politicians, the jail staff had also ‘hosted’ famous model Ayan Ali. Mumtaz Qadri, an elite commando, who was hanged after he was convicted in the killing former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was also kept in the prison.
The three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif was shifted to the Adiala Jail for the second time on Friday (13th July) after he along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz returned to the country from London. Sharif and Maryam were sentenced to prison in absentia by the trial court in the Avenfield reference.
The former prime minister has already had a taste of prison life, as earlier he was briefly kept in Adiala Jail after the 1999 military coup.
Former prime minister and PPP’s senior leader Yousaf Raza Gilani has also spent around five years in the prison during the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s regime. He was arrested on charges of misuse of authority while he was the speaker of the National Assembly in 1993–97.
He, during the detention period, also wrote a book, ‘Chah-e-Yousaf Se Sada’. Gilani, who was disqualified for five years in a contempt case, is now contesting from NA-158.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also spent around a year in Adiala Jail. Abbasi, who after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif served as the prime minister in the previous PML-N’s government, is now contesting from two National Assembly constituencies (NA-57 and NA-53).
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain
Former prime minister Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain had also been the ‘guest’ of this famous prison for some period.
Asif Ali Zardari
Former president Asif Ali Zardari also spent days in the jail during his 11 years conviction period but he briefly spent the time of his imprisonment in the barracks as he, on medical reasons, spent most of the time at PIMS hospital. Zardari is also contesting on a National Assembly seat in the general election.
Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz, has been a ‘newcomer’ to the Adiala Jail. She has been awarded seven years of imprisonment in the Avenfield reference. Maryam is also intending to contest the general election but the fate of her candidature is hanging in the balance after her conviction.
Capt (retd) Safdar
Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar, the husband of Maryam Nawaz, is also in the same jail. Safdar was shifted to Adiala Jail after the trial court awarded him a two-year rigorous imprisonment in the Avenfield case.
The Adiala Jail has also hosted a number of famous politicians including former Punjab chief minister and governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar and seasoned politician Javed Hashmi and others.
The famous model has also tasted the atmosphere of Adiala Jail. She was arrested at Benazir Bhutto International Airport while travelling to Dubai on March 14, 2015, in a money-smuggling case. She was granted bail in July 2015 after spending nearly four months in the jail.
Mumtaz Qadri, an elite commando who was convicted and later hanged in the killing pg former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, also remained incarcerated in the prison.
RECALLS BITTER MEMORIES
“Prison cells were in dilapidated condition. Water was too cold to drink or use for shower. Jail authorities would always find excuses to tease us,” said PML-Q President and former prime minister Ch Shujaat Hussain while recalling his days of imprisonment in Adiala Jail.
He was imprisoned during the second tenure of People’s Party in 1994 along with his cousin Ch Pervaiz Elahi and spent a few months behind bars.
Ch Shujaat remained prime minister for about two months during Gen Musharraf's era.
The PML-Q chief claimed the cases against them were fake, politically-motivated and made by the then FIA Additional DG Rehman Malik who, according to Ch Shujaat, was given job by his father Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi.
The Chaudhrys of Gujrat were later joined by senior politicians Sheikh Rashid, Ejazul Haq and late Khan Abdul Wali Khan, all then anti-PPP.
Hamza Shehbaz (a student then) and Abbas Sharif (late brother of Nawaz and Shehbaz) were also in Adiala in same cells.
The leader from Gujrat said though it was better-class facility in documents but on ground the situation was worst.
Ch Shujaat said Hamza, Abbas were with them in same cell but Sheikh Rashid and Ejaz were placed in separate rooms. However, he added they all would eat food together which he said was brought from his house.
Hamza was then student and was preparing for his exams. For this purpose he placed his chair in the sun and studied for as long as he wanted to.
Shujaat talked about the unique nature of Abbas Sharif who said used to give his food to some cats and then talk to them in signs. “We tried to stop Abbas from doing this strange act but he kept on doing that.”
Hamza Shehbaz, added Ch Shujaat, would write a chit about his favourite dish to a man who used to bring food for them. “Hamza’s favourite dish would come daily from our house along with other meal.”
Ch Shujaat says Sheikh Rashid appeared a man of strong nerves during the imprisonment days but Ejazul Haq was a little weak and used to ask everyone when would he be released.
The veteran politician paid a great homage to ANP’s president late Abdul Wali Khan who he said was a humble being, quiet and brave. “Wali Khan never complained about jail authorities' attitude.
Ch Shujaat remembered a day when late Wali Khan spent whole night sitting along with a wall because of seepage of rainwater from the roof of his cell. However, he never complained to anyone about it.
Shujaat said he furnished all cells from his own pocket where political prisoners were kept.
He said he always thought about condition of the ordinary prisons.
Later, he said, Ch Pervaiz during his tenure as Punjab chief minister improved the conditions of jails in the province.
JAVAID-UR-RAHMAN & Iftikhar Alam