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JAMMU: The security lapse that led to the escape of Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Naveed Jat from Srinagar Central jail on Tuesday was waiting to happen.
From smartphones with internet data packs to Kashmiri ‘wazwan’ mutton delicacies, all luxuries of the free world are available to inmates in the jail where several dreaded terrorists have been lodged.
Jail sources told the TOI that every rule in the book is brazenly flouted in the prison, with little or no intervention from higher authorities in the state government.
For example, Kashmir media regularly gets press releases of Qasim Faktu alias Ashiq Faktu, who is undergoing conviction in Srinagar Central jail for the killing of human right activist H N Wanchoo. One of the top terrorist undergoing life imprisonment is often visited by dozens of devotees who consider him a godman and receive ‘taveez’ (amulets) from him, sources said.
Convicted militant leaders openly use cell phones to keep in touch with their associates in other jails and their organizations both in Kashmir and across the border in Pakistan. The 2010 unrest, according to sources, was also orchestrated from within the Central jail by the dreaded anti-India Islamist separatist Masarat Alam using mobile phones.
Official sources revealed that a pharmacist, Mansoor Ahmad, has been posted in Central jail for the last ten years and developed a close rapport with the inmates. Mansoor, according to sources, helps the jailed terrorists with medical consultation and check-ups in various Srinagar hospitals.
Dr Zeenat Nizami, the medical officer who referred Naveed Jat and five other inmates for a medical check-up in SMHS hospital, has been on the jail duty for over three years. Along with her, the health department has also posted Dr Sajjad Ahmad, who is supposedly sick and remains on leave often, sources said.
The militants are also known to get ‘wazwan’ (Kashmiri cuisine) mutton dishes inside the jail. Almost ten years ago, CRPF conducted a crackdown on the jail and recovered mutton choppers and knives for mincing and making ‘kebabs’ and dozens of cell phones. However, the crackdown did not change anything in the jail.
Sources said such lavish treatment of militants in Central jail was extended under the patronage of the jail superintendent Hilal Ahmad Rather. However, the superintendent, who has risen from ranks, denied the charges and said, “We follow the jail menu strictly. There is no question of allowing the use cell phone inside the jail premises,” he said.
Srinagar central jail, however, is not an exception where jailed terrorists enjoy all the facilities. Last year in August, police recovered twenty cell phones and some incriminating material from Baramulla sub-jail.
Jammu and Kashmir health minister Bali Bhagat told TOI that he would inquire as to how the pharmacist had been working in the jail for over a decade and the female doctor for last three years. “All the medical staff deputed to the central jail would be shifted,” the minister said.
A top police officer said that prima facie it appeared that there is connivance between the entire jail staff including the doctors and paramedics that led to escape of Naveed from the jail. Investigations will reveal everything soon, he said.
JAIL DOCTOR, PHARMACIST PUT OFF DUTY
A day after two cops were killed in a terror attack at the Srinagar SMHS hospital, the doctor at Kashmir central jail — Dr Zeenat — and a pharmacist, Mansoor Ahmad, were removed from duty by the government on Wednesday for the security breach that led to the escape of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant from Pakistan, Mohammad Naveed Jati alias Abu Hanzullah.
An FIR has been registered in the attack and a probe is underway, said the government.
On Wednesday, Hizbul Mujahideen chief of south Kashmir — Riyaz Naikoo — uploaded an audio recording on social media, claiming that the two terrorists who had been sent to free Jati, had reached their destination safely.
Demanding a clarification about the security lapse, the opposition members protested in the legislative assembly.