KP prisons facing overcrowding after crackdown on illegal Afghans

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PESHAWAR: The inmates in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa prisons are facing problems as the jails have become overcrowded following the large-scale arrests of Afghan refugees staying illegally in the province.
Official sources told The Media that the arrests of the Afghan refugees under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act have caused shortage of space in the prisons.The officials said that some of the main central prisons, particularly those in Peshawar, Haripur and Dera Ismail Khan, were already overcrowded. They said the situation worsened when large number of Afghan refugees were arrested and sent to the prisons.
Superintendent Central Prison Peshawar, Masoodur Rehman had recently informed the Peshawar High Court that the prisons were facing overcrowding problem. He had said the Central Prison Peshawar built for housing 350 prisoners had 3,000 inmates.
He made the remarks when he appeared in the case of the convicted Indian prisoner Hamid Nihal Ansari. The Indian national wanted to be shifted to a cell from the barrack for security reasons as he had been allegedly attacked by some fellow prisoners.
Advocate Noor Alam Khan, the chairman of Voice of Prisoners, a non-government organization working for the rights of prisoners, told The Media that during his visits he found all the prisons overcrowded as detained Afghan refugees had been lodged there.
“There is no place left for prisoners in the Central Prison Peshawar. Some prisoners have to spend nights in the washrooms of the prisons,” he said. He added that the Central Prison Peshawar had the capacity to accommodate 350 prisoners, but it was presently holding about 5,000 inmates.
Noor Alam Khan said presently the police were arresting Afghan refugees under Section 14 of Foreigners Act, which, he believed, was illegal as they could be charged only under sections 419 and 420 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for having fake Computerised National Identity Cards or passports. “However, if the police charged the Afghan nationals under sections 419 and 420 of PPC, they could be bailed out easily on local sureties till a decision is made in the cases against them and thus the overcrowding issue would be easily resolved,” he argued.
He feared overcrowding in barracks may lead to spread of many infectious diseases and also cause suffocation.The police on the directives of the KP government started crackdown on the illegal Afghan nationals in June. Thousands of non-registered Afghan refugees were arrested in the province.
The federal government had given six-month extension to the registered Afghan refugees to legalise their stay in Pakistan when the tripartite three-year agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UNHCR expired on December 31, 2015. Another extension of six months was given after June 2016 and the new deadline is December 2016.
After the police crackdown on the illegal Afghan refugees, several thousands have left for Afghanistan and many more are planning to do so in the coming weeks and months.