KARACHI - Muslim charities have launched a series of projects in several Pakistani jails ranging from conventional education to religious learning to turn thousands of prisoners into useful citizens.
We want to change this impression that jails are the nurseries of criminals, Mohammad Yunus, the head of Al-Khidmat Foundation's ongoing projects in Pakistani jails, told OnIslam.net.
We want to convert these would -be criminals into useful citizens for the society through different means.
Al-Khidmat Foundation, Pakistan's largest NGO, has launched a computer and technical skill program as well as conventional education and water salination projects in 20 prisons in four Pakistani provinces.
In northeastern Punjab, the foundation has set up 10 water salination plants in ten jails.
It is also running a literacy project for underage children languishing in juvenile jails, besides computer literacy programs.
We (Islamic charities) by and large have neglected this important segment of society in past. They (prisoners) equally deserve our attention, Yunus said.
That's why the Al-Khidmat Foundation has set up a separate cell to concentrate only on jails.
A 20-member batch from the foundation has recently been awarded certificates at Karachi central prison by provincial minister for jails Ayaz Soomro, who hailed the activities of Muslim charities in jails.
The minister announced a three-month relaxation in term of each prisoner who completed computer certificate program.
Jails in Pakistan are a different world altogether.
Almost all prisons are overcrowded, where common prisoners have to live in dirty and dingy cells not bigger than 12/12 size.
Food and water quality is terribly low.
Prisoners often fall prey to water, and food-borne diseases.
There is no segregation between hardcore criminals and ordinary prisoners, particularly youths, who can easily be lured by these trained and habitual criminals.
These top-notch criminals, who remain in constant touch with their gang members while behind bars and operating their business via mobiles, also train these young prisoners, who later become part of their respective gangs.
Different kinds of torture for the sake of bribe by officials are a routine affair in Pakistani jails.
According to official statistics, the sixteen jails located in Sindh province have the capacity of 8,305 inmates but are packed with over 20,000 prisoners.
The same applies to the remaining 70 jails across the country, bearing the burden of around 75,000 inmates against their actual capacity of 30,000.
Jamiat Taleem-ul-Quran, another Islamic charity, is running a program for Qur'an learning in 80 jails across Pakistan.
Our goal is to put the prisoners on right track so that after completing their term, they could be of some use for the society rather than an addition to the already existed mess, Nisar Ahmed Naqshbandi, a spokesman for Jamiat Taleem-ul-Quran, told OnIslam.net.
Some 8,000 prisoners are enrolled in the Qur'an learning program.
The organization's program is divided into three parts.
We do not start teaching them (prisoners) Qur'an directly, Nisar said.
First, we teach them basic teachings of Islam, like Wadu and namaz, then we teach them civics, and then Nazra Qur'an.
Inmates reciting or memorizing the Noble Qur'an are exempted from rigorous imprisonment that is why a number of prisoners get admission to Qur'an classes to avail this incentive.
A number of prisoners who get admission to Qur'an centers do not know even about basics of Islam, he said.
They just get into there just to avail relaxation from rigorous punishments.
He said that further incentives on completion of the Qur'an and Hifz lure many prisoners to deeply involve in the learning program.
There are various prisoners who have learnt Qur'an in jails, and now they are teaching their inmates, Nisar said.
Besides the Qur'an learning program, the organization is also imparting technical education to the prisoners to enable them to make a living after completion of their terms.
When a prisoner enters the jail, he is cut off his family and the society. He has nothing to do here except mixing with criminals, he said.Therefore, we impart them technical education like plumbing, weaving, hair-cutting, etc so that on the one hand, they have some kind of engagement and on the other hand, they would be capable of earning their livelihood after completion of their respective terms.