Photo of jailed Afghan children is indeed from Karachi
Minister had claimed the viral picture not from any jail in Sindh
Claim: A viral photo of jailed Afghan children is not from any prison in Sindh.
Fact: Soch Fact Check confirms the picture is genuine and authentic following a visit to the lock-up where the photograph was taken. The cell is located inside the City Court in Karachi, Sindh.
During a 30 December 2022 press conference, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon announced that a viral picture showing Afghan children behind bars was not from Karachi. He stated, “I say this categorically that there is no jail in Sindh in which this [viral] picture was taken.”
The press conference was held amid uproar and condemnation from various quarters, local and international, over a photograph posted on 28 December 2022 by human rights lawyer and activist Samar Abbas, showing a group of minor Afghan children peering from behind bars allegedly at a lock-up in Karachi, with an individual standing towards the side — not visible entirely — but using a phone.
Memon can be heard denying the authenticity of the pictures in the press conference at the 1:39 mark in this GTV Network video, the 1:55 and 1:52 marks in this and this Capital TV video, and the 0:58 mark in this 24 News HD video.
Abbas posted the picture on Twitter with the caption, “Captured this heart wrenching picture of Afghan refugee children at Bakhsi Khana [sic]. They are imprisoned at landhi jail since last two months waiting for their deport orders.”
‘Bakshi Khana’ is a temporary lock-up located in Pakistan’s district and session courts. This prisoners’ room is used to keep under-trial accused individuals brought from prisons to a court for their hearings.
Abbas added some more tweets to his original one, forming a thread detailing further information and data about Afghan women and children imprisoned in Pakistan.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), former members of the National Assembly (MNA) Bushra Gohar and Mohsin Dawar, as well as human rights activist Alam Zaib Mahsud also voiced condemnations and called for action. Rabia Mehmood — a journalist, human rights activist, and Amnesty International’s former researcher for the South Asia region — also spoke about the viral image here and here.
On the other hand, numerous others joined the bandwagon of denying the photograph’s authenticity, including journalist Saleem Safi and Rab Nawaz Baloch — a social media influencer leaning towards the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Moreover, Memon himself asserted through his social media accounts that picture was not from any jail in the southern province, saying he has “invited journalists”, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and individuals to visit the prisons, that the picture “does not belong to sindh”, and that the “Landhi Jail is not juvenile Jail”.
The official Twitter account of Sindh Chief Minister House appears to have rejected the “allegation” in a tweet that was later deleted but not before some users took screenshots, available here and here. The text of the tweet in question reads as follows:
“Sindh Chief Minister House/Sectt. firmly rejects this allegation. No where in Sindh have Afghani children been caged. This is a heinous propaganda spreading on twitter and other social media platforms. #PPP #Afghanistan #Refugees”
Dunya News’ Karachi Bureau Chief Talha Hashmi quoted Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) for Prisons, Sheeba Shah, as saying the image was “Untrue” and that “we have Afghan women as prisoners but no kids behind the bar”.
Abbas and his colleague, Moniza Kakar, also a lawyer, have said multiple times — here, here, here, and here — they stand by the pictures they shared and clarified that they took the photographs themselves amid backlash after international media outlets picked up the news.
Fact or Fiction?
Soch Fact Check reached out to Samar Abbas, the original poster, to inquire about the picture and its location. We requested him to lead us to the exact same cell where he took the viral photograph.
Abbas met us at the District & Sessions Courts in Karachi’s East district and led us to the same cell where he took the viral photograph.
The District & Sessions Courts, commonly referred to as the City Courts, is a city courthouse in Karachi located off the famed M. A. Jinnah Road. It is situated in the Adhumal Oodharam Quarter neighbourhood, near Napier Quarter and Dr Ruth K. M. Pfau Civil Hospital.
Soch Fact Check was informed by Abbas and Kakar that Afghan children are routinely brought to the City Courts and kept at the Bakshi Khana. We took multiple photographs of the lock-up in question and compared them to the original one, which is now viral on different social media platforms.
To compare the viral image with the photographs taken by Soch Fact Check at the City Courts, move the slider across the interactive visual below:
We has also created another visual using the different pictures we took at the City Courts, including some that we rotated or warped for easier comparison for our readers.
Soch Fact Check also obtained a screen recording of Abbas’ phone in which he opens his gallery to the photos showing the detained Afghan children and the technical details revealing when those pictures were taken.
We conclude that the denial by Sharjeel Memon that the photo does not show any jail in Karachi or Sindh is false.
Soch Fact Check multiple posts on different social media sites claiming that the viral photograph showing Afghan children held behind bars in Karachi was fake or a lie.
Twitter user @Faizan_g123 alleged that former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was behind the “propaganda”.
PPP leaders Nida Khuhro and Sadia Javed, both of whom are members of the Sindh Assembly, called the image “fake” and “propaganda”. PPP-leaning social media accounts — such as Zobia Khurshid, Imran Dhamra, Ali Trimzi, Jawad Hussain Laghari, Usman Thari, Syeda Mehdia Zehra, Peoples Friends Forum, and A Razzaque — also claimed the viral photograph as false.
Conclusion: Soch Fact Check confirms the picture is genuine and authentic following a visit to the lock-up — located inside the City Court in Karachi, Sindh — where the photograph was taken.