Pakistan to build Taliban-proof prison
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A new prison in northern Pakistan will be designed to resist Taliban jailbreaks more effectively than the country's colonial-era jails, officials said.
The high-security facility will be in the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where militants linked with al-Qaeda have staged two jailbreaks in two years, an official told dpa on Friday.
It will have bomb-proof walls, and improved telecommunications and surveillance equipment, said Shiraz Paracha, spokesman for the chief minister.
"It is going to be a prison comparable with any modern jail anywhere in the world."
Most jails in Pakistan were built by the British during colonial times in the 19th or early 20th century, to hold political dissidents.
Their dated infrastructure has proven an inadequate match for modern, determined militants.
The Pakistani Taliban, linked to al-Qaeda, freed more than three dozen associates when they blew holes in the wall and stormed a prison in a Dera Ismail Khan district of the province in July.
In 2012, the militants broke several Taliban fighters out of another prison in Bannu district.
Adnan Rashid, a Taliban leader on death row for masterminding an attempt the life of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2003, was among the militants broken out of Bannu, and went on to orchestrate the second jailbreak.
“We don’t want such incidents to be repeated … the jail we plan will be too good for militants to overrun,” said Paracha.
Apart from the reinforced perimeter walls, innovations will include cameras to monitor the surrounding area, and possibly remote-controlled doors within the facility.
The prison will also be in a more isolated location to improve visibility of the surroundings, unlike the current ones which are often amid residences and businesses, and easier to approach undetected.
Al-Qaeda has reportedly set up a cell dedicated to springing members of affiliated groups from Pakistani prisons, intelligence agencies have warned.
Around 4,000 members of various militant organizations are in detention in the country, most in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, according to government statistics.
Criticism has also been levelled at the police capacity to guard the prisons and repel intruders, after officers put up little resistance to either of the recent attacks.
Paracha said this was in part due to the multiple, simultaneous perimeter breaches, which overwhelmed the security forces, and this would be solved by the stronger walls. But he said training would also be introduced to improve guards' response.
The whole project would take at least three to four years to complete, he added.
The provincial government was already shifting detainees from Islamist groups to two prisons guarded by the military, the spokesman said.