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Gates and buildings of the Central Prison in Karachi, Pakistan

Series of massive protests have held all over the world last month against the gross human rights violations being committed in Pakistan by the Imran Khan government. Apart from that Pakistan’s record in enforced disappearances aka missing persons remains among the worst in the world as thousands of political and human rights activists have been taken into secret custody or have gone missing with no signs of information of their whereabouts.

Amid these issues, Pakistan’s Human Rights Ministry report highlighted the poor conditions of women in prisons, as well as the massive scale of mistreatment, meted out to them in jails and the need for broad and sustained reform, according to US-based NGO Human Right’s Asia director Brad Adams.

The report ‘Plight of Women in Pakistan’s Prisons,’ submitted to Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 26, highlighted that Pakistan’s prison laws did not meet international standards and that officials often ignore laws meant to protect women, prisoners, according to a statement by the Human Right (HRW).

“The Human Rights Ministry has highlighted the massive scale of mistreatment of women in prison and the need for broad and sustained reform,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights. “While an important step, this report can only bring change if Pakist authorities follow its recommendations and end widespread abuse.”

Last week, Imran Khan has directed the relevant authorities to make arrangements for the early release of female prisoners — both under-trial and convicted.

According to the Prime Minister Office (PMO), Khan announced the decision at a meeting and later in his tweets on Wednesday.

A source in the PMO told Dawn news that it was brought to the notice of the Prime Minister that a large number of women prisoners were facing imprisonment only because they were unable to pay petty fines.

Khan vowed that the government would bear all expenses for the release of women prisoners whose remaining sentence was less than three years and they were serving imprisonment due to non-payment of petty fines, the source added.

In his tweets, Prime Minister Khan said he had issued the directions after a meeting with Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, the attorney general and Barrister Ali Zafar.

He also asked for “immediate reports on foreign women prisoners and women on death row for humanitarian consideration”.

Khan’s order comes in the wake of an interim order issued by the Supreme Courtin April in which it had directed the government to release prisoners suffering from a physical or mental illness, under-trial prisoners who were 55 or older, male under-trial prisoners who had not been convicted in the past as well as female and juvenile prisoners.

According to a media report, of the 1,121 women in prison as of mid-2020, 66 per cent had not been convicted of any offence and were detained while awaiting the conclusion of their trial. More than 300 women were detained in facilities outside the districts where they lived, making family visits nearly impossible.

Jail.

The committee, which submitted the reported to Khan, found that prison staff routinely failed to observe appropriate protections against the spread of the coronavirus. Prison staff failed to put social distancing measures in place or require prisoners and staff to wear masks.

The committee urged comprehensive medical screening for all entering prisoners.

According to the HRW, the children who accompany their mothers in prison face additional risks. The committee found that 134 women had children with them in prison, some as old as 9 and 10, despite the legal limit of 5 years. At least 195 children were housed in prisons as of 2020.

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