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Taliban inmates assert control over country's jails, shut down music classes.
Many Taliban prisoners are able to operate from their cells freely, officials and inmates said. Omar Saeed Sheikh, a militant with close links to the Taliban who was sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, was caught by Pakistani intelligence authorities devising a campaign from his cell on death row to bring about tension between Pakistan and India using a smuggled mobile phone.
Intelligence officials, in fact, said poor security and corruption within the prison system allows jailed Taliban militants the freedom to be fully in touch with their aides on the outside. Authorities occasionally launch sweeps to confiscate mobile phones but to get a new one is not difficult for a prisoner with a few thousand rupees to spend.
Mangan said the scrapped music program is just one example of the kind of influence the Taliban wields inside Pakistan’s prison system.
“It was the first-ever music learning program introduced in a prison in Pakistan. It really went well for four or five months and we were expecting more and more enrollment,” he said. “It was not only the violence that crippled our plans but the Taliban prisoners destroyed almost all the musical instruments, which were donated by some philanthropists.”
There is no money to buy new instruments, he said, and finding a donor can be a lengthy process.
“The government is fully supporting us in arranging such programs but there is no allocation of funds,” he said.
Still, Mangan has no intention of giving up and plans to resume the classes as soon as he can find a new set of instruments.
The warden at the provincial prison in Sindh, Muzaffer Shujra, said he also planned to resume music classes in August.
“We will not bow to the extremists,” he said. “Extremists will not be allowed to establish a state within a state. Whoever wants to learn music, he will have the freedom to do that.”