Punjab govt to release 20,000 prisoners

Lahore: The Punjab government has announced to release 20,000 prisoners as the province falls short of financial and medical resources facing the brunt of virus outbreak.

According to Punjab government’s home department, out of 46,000 prisoners, 20,000 will be released from 41 jails across the province.

The decision comes as Punjab surpassed Sindh with highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, reaching a tally of 490.

Jail superintendents have filed bail applications for prisoners facing jail time for petty crimes, as well as the elderly, or criminals over 60 years of age. Further, those with sentences ranging from seven to 25 years, were being determined on a case-by-case basis.

Earlier, country reported its first coronavirus case at central jail in Lahore which houses around 3,500 inmates. The person had been arrested on drug charges in Italy before his recent deportation.
Local and international rights groups have been urging Pakistani authorities to take preventive steps, including social distancing, in the country’s jails, which house more than 77,000 prisoners.

“Prisons in Pakistan face massive overcrowding, overruling the possibility of social distancing, with the potential for a large outbreak. Hygiene supplies remain limited as does healthcare,” said Amnesty International in a statement.

Prior to this, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minullah had ordered for bails to be issued for prisoners facing trial for minor crimes in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.