January 26, 2022

Pakistan’s Juvenile Justice System: The Deplorable Treatment of Juvenile Offenders

Islamabad- Ansar Iqbal was executed in 2015 on the charge of murdering his neighbour. According to Reuters, he committed the crime when he was only 15 years old.

Aftab Bahadur Masih was executed in 2015 after being convicted of murder in Lahore in 1992, according to a news report. He was 38 years old at the time of execution. However, he committed the crime 24 years ago, when he was a 14-year-old boy.

According to a report by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), at least 10% of death-row prisoners in Pakistan committed crimes when they were under the age of 18.

The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 prohibits the imposition of death penalties on minors. However, the ordinance has lacked proper implementation since its enactment.

The report by JPP analysed that Pakistani authorities assess age only by physical appearance rather than checking it medically due to lack of age determination methods.

Majid Ghufran Jadoon, assistant director of administration of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) prisons, said that such cases reflect the flaws in our justice system.

According to data provided by the Inspector General of KP prisons, there are 2,906 male and 13 female juvenile convicts in KP prisons. Another 10,560 boys and 141 girls are imprisoned while under trial.

Juvenile offenders are charged with various crimes including murder, attempted murder, robbery, theft, and drug-related crimes.

Mr. Jadoon said that juvenile prisoners are kept in separate jail cells. He added that adult prisoners are not allowed there. However, due to limited space in some of the lock-ups and sub-jails, juvenile prisoners are kept with the adult prisoners.

In 2015, a juvenile prisoner of the Peshawar Central Jail lodged a police complaint about sexual abuse inside the jail, according to a news report. The prisoner alleged that some prison officials were operating a prostitution ring through which they “supply” the juvenile prisoners to adult prisoners.

Mr. Jadoon dismissed the issue. He said that most of these incidents are concocted stories only. Instead, as a bizarre justification, he said sometimes teenage prisoners abuse some of the young prisoners as all the juvenile prisoners live in the same jail cells. This is the result of lack of proper juvenile detention facilities, he said.

Pakistan has only seven juvenile detention facilities in total. Two of these are located in Punjab, four in Sindh, and one is in KP. There is no such facility in Balochistan.

The KP juvenile detention facility is not functional.

Mr. Jadoon said different NGOs send volunteers who teach juvenile prisoners. However, this practice was stopped due to security reasons after the rise in terrorist attacks.

Apart from the juvenile offenders, a number of children are living in prisons with their mothers who are either convicted or under-trial.

Mr. Jadoon said that children live with their mothers until the age of five.

“As per the rule, children have to leave the jail after they turn five,” said Mr. Jadoon. “They either live with their relatives or are sent to an orphanage.”


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