South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

LAHORE: There is a need to bring about a change in attitudes, frame laws and implant them effectively to check the increasing violence in Pakistani society, said speakers at a seminar held here on Thursday.

Addressing the seminar, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) secretary general IA Rehman said that torture in state custody was on the rise in different shapes, including extrajudicial killings and disappearances, violating local and internationally-ratified laws.

The seminar — “Fight against Torture in Custody” — was arranged by Initiative for Peace and Freedom (IPF), a non-government organization working on peace and freedom, in collaboration with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a Hong Kong-based human rights group. It was held at the HRCP auditorium.

The seminar was addressed and participated by lawyers, human rights activists, journalists. Speakers demanded the government make laws according to the UN Convention Against Torture and implement the laws in letter and spirit to check the increase in trends of violence by the state and non-state actors.

Immediately after signing the UN convention, the Pakistani government had shown its reservations on almost all important articles of the CAT, which provided protection against torture by state. The reservations are coming from Pakistan at a moment when the head of the state, President Asif Ali Zardari, himself has said that he has been tortured in the state custody as a political prisoner.

The main source of torture in Pakistan, in particular, and in South Asia, in general, is the physical remand in custody, HRCP reports. According to the law, a judge or magistrate who allows remand and police custody has to ask the accused whether he or she has been subject to torture but this practice is generally not followed.

I A Rehman said that the judicial remand of accused persons in Pakistan had become a joke, adding that accused persons were tortured against the law for forced confessions.

Highlighting the misuse and abuse of laws against torture in Pakistan, he said the state tortures further gave justification to private torture. “Resultantly, the society is becoming more violent and intolerant,” he said, and added that studies and reports showed that the incidents of Karo-Kari were on the rise in Pakistan. He said the gun had taken over discourse and dialogue. There is no remedy to extrajudicial killings despite the ratification of UN CAT, he said. Only a few are sentenced on violating law and torturing and killing people in custody, he claimed.

He urged the Pakistani government and state authorities to frame laws and make rules in line with the CAT after its ratification in 2010. “We need to make rules and create forums which the convention demands.” He said that non-state violence in the name of religions, culture and social customs was adding to the miseries of citizens. The state torture and organized non-state violence always affected the society negatively. He said the use of gun and ammunition was also becoming a common resort of torture in Pakistan.

Not to condemn the torture is also an indirect approval of torture, he said, demanding of the government to take the Convention Against Torture seriously. In Pakistan, he maintained, there are many laws and conventions which are not being implemented.

Husain Naqi, a journalist and activist, said that the reservations of Pakistan against CAT after its ratification were raising serious concern in the international community and the UN circles. The Pakistani parliament had also not been taken into confidence on the CAT and its reservations. He said though Pakistan had taken back some reservations but still the main points were to be addressed.

Journalist and activist Wajahat Masood said that incidents like killing of a boy by Pakistan Rangers in Karachi and brutal firing and killing of five foreigners in Kharotabad, Quetta, reflected the rise in torture by the state even before taking the people into custody and formally accusing them of any crime.

Source: The News: 01.07.2011