Sunlight in the dark dangeon

Sunlight in the dark dangeon by Tarik Zia(The Nation City, Islamabad)

Jails is a frightening place for common man but it also promises a major shift in life if the authorities are serious to help mould the behaviour of prisoners rather than tormenting them.  Abdussammad, 12, who was arrested from Peshawar some four months ago for smuggling heroin narrates his experiences about the favours he got by virtue of his arrest and the learning opportunities he got in the Adiala Jail.
Talking to the Nation Abdus-sammadsaid, “I didn’t have any idea as to what will be the consequences of my arrest”. He said that he was interested in getting education in his early childhood but unfavourable circumstances shook his determination completely to get himself enrolled as a student. “I think I am lucky enough to have an opportunity to get education in jail,” he said with a glimmer in his eyes.
“I am thankful to Tajima for helping actualize my dream,” he said showing his notebook and smiled triumphantly exclaiming, “I can read now!”
Tajima Shinji, a Japanese educationist and community welfare worker, is working to establish libraries in jails across the country. He visits Pakistan quite often and has established libraries in Central Jail Adiala, Rawalpindi; Women Jail Multan, and Children Jail, Faisalabad and has recently opened one in Peshawar Jail.
He has named these librares as Kiran (sunlight). “This is meant to be a source from where the light of literacy and knowledge can shine equally upon all of juvenile prisoners,” he says. There are one hundred and seventeen children - of between 10 and 18 age group - who have been living in juvenile section of Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi.
All of them have a story to tell that led them where they are now - behind the iron bars. However, regardless of the circumstances under which they committed crime, poverty has been a prime factor behind all of them. Before enactment of juvenile Justice System Ordinance in July 2000, juvenile prisoners were locked up among adults. However, after the ordinance, separate juvenile wards have been set up to provide them with fair atmosphere.
Juvenile Justice System (JIS) gave a lot of protection to children, but its implementation is not up to the mark. There are many kids whose trials in courts still linger on. “Exclusive juvenile courts were supposed to be set up, however, through a notification, existing civil courts were authorized to the special hearing of juvenile offenders,” told an Advocate Anis Jeelani, who deals with such cases on behalf of Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Children. “I think exclusive juvenile courts must be established in mega cities where courts are already overburdened by pending cases”, he added. UNHCR requires disposal of juvenile’s cases within four months, however, an example of a 17 year old, Asif Bultistani, who has been in jail for 16 months, did not match with what has given him the right under J?S. Bultistani had quarreled with his schoolfellow on possession of a mobile phone. “My schoolmate’s father holds a key post in federal government, so I had to face the music”, said Asif. He was a student of eighth class in Islamabad Model College, located in Sector E-7. “I say confidently that there is no example of disposing of juvenile cases within due time frame”, said Advocate Anis Jeelani. The minimum age of criminal responsibility in the country is 7 years. Shaista Ysmeen, assistant manager child protection at SPARC demanded that this age limit should be increased as many countries of South Asia did.
The juvenile prisoners have reasons for what they have committed on surface, but they often commit crime driver by poverty.
“I stole a car to make money”, told 17-year old Khalid. “My mother was ill and I did not have enough money to bear medical expenditures, so I was left with no other option,” said Khalid while narrating his story. There was no trace of guilt visible on his face for what he did.
Tajima also convinced that poverty is basic element of committing crimes. “This issue, which needs keen interest from state, can only be addressed by raising literacy rate among kids”, he said. How living in jail leaves impacts upon kids’ thinking pattern. Farhan tells how much change was brought in his vision while living in jail.
“The law is con???bire (keep) of the rich”, said 17-year old Farhan, a bookbinder. He has been living in jail for a bit more than 18 months. He was coming to Rawalpindi from Peshawar in a public coach. The police discovered from coach a huge amount of opium. They let the driver go and arrested other passengers. “Police demanded fifty thousand rupees for my release and for not registering case against me, but I was helpless because I had never even counted that much currency in my entire life”, Farhan took a pause and firmly said, “I shall not live in this country and will try to sneak out to Dubai. He was happy to have chance of learning at the library. “I will sit in forthcoming matriculation exams,” told Farhan. Talking on experiences of living in jail he shared, “I never learnt that much in my entire life what I have learned here. You cannot observe human psychology as much as you can when in jail”, he explained.
Muhammad Ayub, teacher of the library, said while commenting on the prisoner students’ receptiveness towards education. “Basically they are innocent and quite intelligent in learning new things. I emphasise on religious teachings which only can provide them a clear path to walk on peacefully and give them courage to stand on right way”, he said further explaining he said, “I am not going to make them maulvi but would try to give them a balanced version of life.”Talking on his observations on why children commit crime he told that the core cause was poverty and ninety-nine percent of them belong to deprived sections of the society. “So, due to this, they do not have access to education and unfavourable circumstances also prevent them from the light of knowledge,” he observed.
His observations do match with at least one example of a 10-year boy, Javed, who has spent 14 months of his childhood in Adiala Jail.
“My school teacher used to beat me, one day during recess I ran from school and caught a bus which was coming to Rawalpindi. Soon after the bus crossed Peshawar city’s limits the police stopped the bus and started checking. Unfortunately under the seat on which I was sitting a reasonable amount of narcotics was recovered.
An aged person who was sitting next to me disappeared. So police started asking me where was that person who was using me for smuggling. I started weeping but they did not listen to my statement and sent me to Adiala Jail. My parents have moved back to their native country Afghanistan. They did not try to find me or perhaps they do not need me or do not want to get in trouble actually,” he told his pathetic tale. The jail administration provides treatment facilities to prisoners. However concerned personnel do not seem to be bothered about the severe conditions prevailing in a juvenile prisoner. While talking to The Nation, Javed was badly coughing. “A week ago they told me they will send my saliva for laboratory test to determine whether I am having TB,” he said while spitting here and his fellow prisoners were asking him to control his noisy cough. Thousands of juvenile prisoners are suffering, for lack of implementation of the Juvenile Justice Ordinance though promulgated for the last seven years.

The NATION CITY (2007年4月4日)



Business Recorder (editor-in-chief M.A. Zuberi)
Wednesday April 4 2007

Tajima Shinji, educationist, is visiting Pakistan these days and presently
staying here in the capital. A special evening was organised on March. 21
at the Institute of Educational Research.

His literary contribution imbued with humanism and uplifting of the
downtrodden segments of the society was highly acclaimed by the august
assembly of his admirers consisting of art and literary figures.

He was declared the most popular "ambassador of friendship" between
Pakistan and Japan. Pakistan and Japan share mutual friendship: The
products in areas of textile, transportation and electronics are the
most popular household articles in Pakistan. Besides, the cultural
exchanges between the two countries have also been playing a vital role
in cementing bilateral ties between the two countries. The name of
Tajima Shinji stands distinct among those who relentlessly served for
the cause of mutual friendship.

A decade ago he came to Pakistan and joined the Literacy Commission of
Pakistan (now defunct) as its advisor. He introduced a promising
project of establishing ten thousand non-traditional schools for poor children
in the rural areas of the country. Besides his educational pursuits, he
also organised a number of exhibitions of his paintings mostly
projecting the nuclear devastation in Japan in mid-40s.

His short stories on ecological health, oceanography and wild life were
most popular in the kid readership in Pakistan. All of his literary
books have been translated in over 25 languages of UNO member states.
The strong love and deep attachment with the poor budding folks and the
book culture took Tajima Shinji to Pakistani prisons to establish
libraries for juvenile prisoners with the title of "Kiran" library.

The first library of its series was established in November 2000 Adiala
Jail, Rawalpindi. Tajima Shinji told about his project. "The Kiran
Library aimed to foster ray of hope among the juvenile prisoners for a
peaceful and law abiding life. With such grooming when a child prisoner
is released out of the jail, it is expected that he would play a vital
role in the development of his society."

In 2000 there were over 7000 children in 70 jails of the country. About
200 kids were in the age bracket of 10 to 18 years. All of them were
the victims of social injustice and brutality. During his stay in Pakistan
Tajima Shinji is scheduled to visit various juvenile prisons in the
country for the donation of valuable books there.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2007






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