Women prisoners may get free legal cover
KARACHI – Some efforts were made by the government, NGOs and judiciary to alleviate miseries of inmates of prisons, especially women, but desired results could not be achieved , Chief Justice of High Court of Sindh Justice Saiyed Saeed Ashhad said Karachi on July 30.
He was speaking as chief guest at the inauguration of a legal-aid office, at the Special Prison for Women, Karachi, a joint project of the Committee for Welfare of Women Prisoners and Karachi Women Prisoners Welfare Society.
The district and sessions judges were asked to visit prisons in their areas and to look into the problems faced by prisoners, particularly arrangement of surety amounts, but this could not work, said the chief justice.
Terming the project of providing free legal-aid to all inmates of women prisons a daunting and difficult, Chief Justice Saiyed Saeed Ashhad said with Justice (Retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid leading the committee and team of legal assistants, the pilot project is deemed to meet a great success.
“I have no doubts regarding the success of the project and hope this will serve as a model for opening similar offices at other prisons of the country and would help a lot in removing the miseries of convicts, as well as under-trial prisoners.
He said a large number of donors have shown confidence in the team and it bears testimony to the fact that whenever sincere projects are undertaken a lot of people come forward and render valuable assistance in terms of money, time and efforts.
Identifying the most common problems faced by women inmates, the chief justice said in case a woman is granted bail, the surety amount becomes the important problem. This occurs either due to heavy amount of surety or no one is looking after the ill-fated woman, he said.
The miscalculation in completion of terms /sentences awarded to prisoners and omission by jail authorities in calculating remissions given to the prisoners on special occasions/festivals was the second most common problem faced by the inmates, said Saiyed Saeed Ashhad.
Earlier, Justice (Retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid said the idea of establishing a legal aid office for women prisoners was first floated at a meeting of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (AAPNA), held at Nishter Medical College in Dec 2002.
AAPNA has decided to start a pilot project and in March 2003 work on ad hoc basis commenced which lasted till July 2003, he said, adding during this time he found that there was no effective legal aid organization in Karachi which could render legal advice and represent poor prisoners in courts on a regular basis for which services of full time advocates and an office for this purpose is needed.
Justice Zahid said after hectic efforts and perusing officials, he had found the place which was housing anti-terrorism courts. He said the governor was instrumental in arranging the office which will start functioning from the first week of August.
For the initial period, four advocates on full time basis would look after the work and this strength would soon rose to eight for 100 per cent results. He said students of Hamdard Law School have helped a lot in preparing a questionnaire for compilation of data.
About 53 donors have contributed to different works of the project and more are coming forward, he said. Later, the chief justice inaugurated the office and went round different facilities, including offices of legal assistants etc.
The inaugural ceremony was also attended by pusine judge Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, Justice Ata-ur-Rahman, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany and Advocate General of Sindh Anwar Mansoor Khan.