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Digging through: Higher walls, closer scrutiny of staff recommended for Gilgit Jail

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GILGIT: In 2013, inmate Oleg Topalov at Matrosskaya Tishina, a maximum-security facility in Moscow, used an innocuous spoon to dig a hole into the ceiling and make his way out. On February 27, 2015, four prisoners attempted to break out of Gilgit Jail, after digging a similar hole—in a wall—before making their ‘great’ escape.

HunzaNews, March 5th, 2015.

As Interim Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan Sher Jehan Mir and other top officials visited the jail on Tuesday and examined the now patched up hole in the wall, little has been shared about how the prisoners managed to burrow their way through the library. However, a list of measures to be taken was made public after the visit.

Unlike Topalov, who was captured soon after, two of the four prisoners are still at large. Bilal, who was accused of being part of the Nanga Parbat attack, was shot during his attempted escape, and a man identified as Dilbar was injured and captured.

Fugitives Habibur Rehman and Liaquat face trial for respectively murdering 11 of a mountain climbing entourage and the investigators of the Nanga Parbat attack in Chilas. The two were cornered at a compound in Minawar on the same night by security forces who failed to capture them.

On Tuesday, Chief Secretary Sultan Sikandar Raja, IGP Zafar Iqbal Awan and home secretary Sibtain Ahmed, among others, accompanied Mir to inspect the 100-strong jail’s security, the CM Secretariat’s spokesperson Sajjadul Haq told The Express Tribune.

“The officials were briefed by the home secretary in detail about the jailbreak and measures taken thereafter,” said Haq. According to the spokesperson, in an on-the-spot briefing, the home secretary showed the path used by the militants to escape.

Home Secretary Sibtain Ahmed shows the hole through which the prisoners fled the jail. PHOTO COURTESY: SAJJADUL HAQ

Investigators earlier said the militants had made a hole in the library wall before scaling the boundary wall from where they had jumped. The sound of their landing outside on the street was what alerted the security forces, who attempted to stem the escape.

The hole in the wall, which is wide enough to allow the girth of a man through, took the inmates directly to the jail boundary wall which was 14 feet tall. According to officials, the inmates used a ladder to escape.

However, no disclosure has been made so far about how the inmates managed to break through a solid wall, procure a ladder or plan the escape.

Inside job?

According to an initial enquiry, the jailbreak was coordinated by jail staff. Four jail officials, including, the jail superintendent, were suspended immediately after by the IGP jails. The police also detained 13 jail officials and have sought physical remand for interrogation.

A bounty of Rs2 million for any actionable information leading to the arrests of Rehman and Liaquat was also set by the government.

“Sher Jehan Mir assured all out support to the police for the arrest of the fugitives,” said the spokesperson, adding the culprits would be meted out strict punishment.

On Sunday, an investigator told The Express Tribune it was fear of strict punishment or the death penalty handed out by military courts which had prompted the escape. According to the investigator, the injured inmate had said as much during interrogation.

Ain’t no boundary high enough

After the jail visit, Mir asked authorities to erect an outer wall outside the jail and increase the height of the inner wall. “The officials at public works department have been assigned to complete the job with 45 days,” said Haq.

It was decided that in future jail staff will be recruited after clearance from relevant agencies, added the spokesman. He shared there were plans to install an alarm system to warn about any breach in security.


According to IGP Zafar Awan, Bilal was the mastermind behind the jailbreak. “It was Bilal who crafted the plan,” the IGP told  Monday.

Another official shared, “Instead of laying siege to entire areas, raids will now be conducted on the basis of intelligence reports,” he said.


Express Tribune

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