KARACHI: The Sindh government has paid more than Rs330 million to win the freedom of 37 prisoners who had completed their sentences but were languishing in different jails across the province because of their inability to pay Diyat, Daman or Arsh — different kinds of compensation — which were imposed by the courts.
The first initiative of its kind has brought relief to many families, according to jail sources and officials.
They said the Sindh government had paid a total amount of Rs339.57 million as Diyat, Daman or Arsh money to families of the victims who were killed or badly wounded or suffered losses in different incidents or in deliberate attacks by suspects who were later caught, prosecuted and convicted by courts.
After completing their jail terms, the sources said, they were unable to pay the compensation amount to victims’ families.
“The provincial government identified and gathered data of those convicts who were compelled to stay in jails for long despite serving their terms,” said a source. “It was found that 10 inmates in Karachi’s central prison, four in its Malir, 13 in Hyderabad, five in Sukkur, four in Larkana and one in Sanghar prison have completed their sentences, but have not been set free because they have not paid compensation to the victims’ families.”
The data, they added, showed that all the 37 inmates belonged to poor families and could not afford to pay the compensation amount spelt out in their sentences.
Most of them had no criminal record and were caught after fatal traffic accidents or violent reaction over petty disputes, the source said.
“This situation required the Sindh government’s intervention,” said Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, the minister for prisons. “We took this initiative for these  individuals as the amount of compensation imposed by the courts cannot be shared by any individual or philanthropist. It was a huge sum and all those inmates were poor without any history of criminal activity.
“So the Sindh government paid the sum [Rs339.57 million] as Diyat, Daman and Arsh to families of the victims for 37 inmates and helped set them free.”
The Sindh government’s move has attracted praise from legal experts and activists associated with welfare of jail inmates. They suggested a permanent fund to help out those convicts who were not “hardened criminals”, but landed in jail for minor offences or traffic accidents and then languished in prisons because they were unable to pay compensation.
“Such initiatives are seen in countries which are called welfare states,” said Haider Ali Haider, a high court lawyer who helps inmates of Malir prison in securing legal assistance, payment of fines and to ensure speedy trials.
“Diyat, Daman and Arsh are punishments provided in Section 53 of Pakistan Penal Code. They all define compensation payable to heirs of a victim by an offender due to bloodshed or any loss he or she has incurred.
“Generally the amount is huge and sometimes in millions which any poor man cannot even imagine to pay. So in that case they don’t have any other option but to spend more years in the prison.”