Ignored and Condoned: Torture in Custody

Pakistan on 01 July 2013
Location : Pakistan | Source : Dawn

IN recent days, rights activists have increased pressure for effective rules against torture in custody. These efforts counter the frequent incidence of suspects being tortured by policemen who are keen to extract a confession, for money or to satisfy their own flawed sense of justice. Only a few days ago, an accused was allegedly beaten to death in Sharaqpur (Sheikhupura), his bones broken in many places. The reaction of the police, as reported in a section of the media, aptly summed up the official apathy to a dire problem: “So many die [in Pakistan] every day.” As routine matters go, many people are tortured in custody daily, an activist told a seminar in Lahore recently: one for each of the 13,000 police stations in the country.

Pakistan is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, the supposed extra cover for the accused along with the guarantees offered in the Constitution. In Punjab, the Police Order 2002 is in place, under which a policeman convicted of inflicting “torture or violence to any person in his custody” can be jailed for five years. Even the recent signing of the UN convention by Pakistan and the improvement in local laws have had minimal impact. At the most, whenever a scandal manages to break out from within the dreaded walls of a thana, an official or two is suspended. A report unveiled in Lahore last week had 57pc of the accused saying they were tortured in custody.

More than half of the accused covered by the study said their families had paid the police not to torture them. With each case, fear and insecurity increase manifold, and calls for the implementation of effective laws become louder. Yet the shameful acts continue to be institutionally ignored; in fact they are silently condoned in the name of quick justice. For all those sick with violence, especially the brand perpetuated in the name of the state, these harrowing stories emanating from the lockups are more than just distressing.

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