KARACHI, Oct 15: A 45-metre-long and 10-metre-deep tunnel being built just a few metres from the Karachi Central Jail to spring 100 ‘dangerous militants’ was discovered in a house situated in a neighbouring locality, an officer disclosed on Monday.
Several suspects belonging to a banned outfit were arrested when the house was raided this weekend, while five more suspects were later picked up on information provided by them during interrogation. The move was followed by a jail operation during which all prisoners were searched physically that led to the recovery of electric wires, scissors, radios, jihadi literature, knives, party flags and a modified ladder, said a Rangers spokesperson.
The house situated in Ghausia Colony, a shanty town close to the main penitentiary in Karachi, had been bought by the suspects some five months ago, said Col Tahir Mehmood of Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, while speaking at a press conference at the Rangers Headquarters.
“They were only 10 metres from their target when the raid was conducted,” the colonel said.
80pc digging work had been done when suspects caught
There’s an underground water tank in the house where the suspects had started tunnelling their way to the jail, the officer said. He explained that they were using ‘sophisticated equipment’ for digging, besides having arranged lights and some wooden stuff to keep the tunnel dry.
He added that the activity had been on for the past four and a half months.
“The suspects had dug up the tunnel up to 45 metres and they needed 10 metres more to reach their target” when the house was raided with the help of a national security institution on the night between Oct 11 and 12, he said.
Their intended target appeared to be a barrack unit housing around 100 ‘dangerous militants’ and they had planned to reach the target through a dry well, said the officer. Due to ‘groupings’ inside the jail, prisoners belonging to one school of thought were kept in same barracks, said a senior official of the home department. He added that 100 prisoners could be kept in a single barrack unit of the jail that housed over 5,000 prisoners.
While Col Tahir did not disclose the number of suspects picked up from the house and name of the militant group they belonged to, he did confirm that the suspects belong to ‘a banned outfit’ and that ‘five more suspects’ were rounded up on information provided by them.
Speaking about the location of the house, he said there was a road between the central prison and its adjacent neighbourhood Ghausia Colony. As it was an ‘unauthorised’ settlement, he added, the law-enforcers were investigating to ascertain the actual owner of the house.
However, provincial minister for prisons Manzoor Wasan, who along with the inspector general of prison Nusrat Mangan visited the house, told the media that its owner was a policeman who had sold it at a price four times its market price some months ago.
“The actual price of the house was Rs0.3 million but the policeman had sold it for Rs1.4 million,” said the minister. He said the police official whose name he did not disclose would also be interrogated.
To find out if the suspects had ‘inside help’, a committee led by the home secretary was constituted, said Mr Wasan.
In reply to a question, the minister for prisons said that security around the central jail was mainly the responsibility of Rangers, police and other institutions.
Asked about the dry well mentioned by the Rangers officer at the press conference, Mr Wasan made it clear that there was no dry well in the house. “Instead there was a gutter adjacent to a mosque, which leads to the prison,” he added.
Mr Wasan said the suspects had dug up tunnel up to 45 metres but they had not crossed the road yet.
Meanwhile, progress on a proposal for setting up a ‘high security prison’ in Nooriabad, where all ‘dangerous prisoners’ would he shifted, was reviewed at a meeting presided over by Sindh Chief Secretary Sajjad Saleem Hotiana.
The meeting was informed that the project would cost Rs1.5 billion.
The chief secretary directed the special secretary finance for early release of the fund.
Mr Hotiana said that a committee, led by DIG South Barrister Abdul Khalique Shaikh, was set up to probe the matter and submit its report within a week. Additional home secretary, representative of the jail administration and others would be part of the committee that the chief secretary said had been constituted with the approval of the chief minister.
The meeting also reviewed the security of prisons in Hyderabad, Sukkur and other areas.
Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2014