Editorial
The media has finally picked up a case, or is it three cases, of police torture. Better late than never. What it has ignored is the apparent consent of local people who formed the audience at the public display of police torture in Chiniot.

overview
Trained to torture
With excessive torture the order of the day, police force remains a complete stranger to modern investigation techniques
By Aoun Sahi
"Investigators continued hitting the palm of my feet with a cane until I confessed to crimes I had never committed," says Irfan Haider, a 28-year old resident of Sialkot district. Irfan was arrested in 2007 as he was coming home from his shop. "I can't forget the five days I spent in the police station. The police wanted me to admit to committing a major theft in the area. When I refused, two policemen started torturing me. Barely 30 minutes had passed when I confess to having committed the crime," he says.

Colonial legacy
The common torture methods employed by police can be traced to the ancient past
By Waqar Gillani
The common torture methods employed by police officials include standing for hours with arms stretched to the sides, hanging upside down, twisting the genitals, clubbing, not allowing them to use toilets for hours, cigarettes burns, whacking the soles of the feet, sexual assault, prolonged isolation, electric shock, denial of food or sleep, forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters and public humiliation. Even, picking up the family members of the accused persons is a form of torture.

Private and confidential
Some 150 private torture cells exist in Lahore to interrogate the accused by applying traditional methods of torture without fear
By Salman Aslam
Recently, a detainee of a private torture cell in Shera Kot, maintained by Sub-Inspector Akram of Gulshan-e-Ravi police station, killed one constable Asif and disposed of his body in an open drain in the Sandah area. A rare case indeed -- a detainee kills policeman deputed to keep a vigil on the cell inmates.

laws
Illegal matters
Young policemen are rarely informed about legal implications of soliciting evidence by means of torture
By Aiyan Bhutta
The latest report of police torture -- an all too common occurrence in police stations throughout Pakistan -- comes from Chiniot, where seven individuals were victims of extreme police brutality. The policemen in this case were said to be furious after being confronted by the relatives of the accused who alleged that these individuals were falsely implicated. As revenge, the law enforcement officials took the law into their own hands by publicly punishing and humiliating the accused men.

In the routine
Training programmes should be reoriented to bring about a change in the attitude and mindset
Unfortunately, policemen are not trained in modern scientific investigation. Rules are flouted with impunity by the men in uniform for they are accountable to none. Moreover, there is no forum where the victims can seek redress and since there are no witnesses to contradict the police version in the event of a death in custody, the perpetrator often goes scot-free.

The entire police force is overworked
Dr Fasihuddin, Director General Human Rights Central Police Office and President Pakistan Society of Criminology
By Mushtaq Yusufzai
"Police torture is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan," admits Dr Fasihuddin, Director General Human Rights Central Police Office and President Pakistan Society of Criminology while talking to The News on Sunday.

"The difference between Pakistan and the civilised world is that we work on ad hoc basis, while they develop their institutions which function according to the parameters set by the constitution."

 

 

Editorial

The media has finally picked up a case, or is it three cases, of police torture. Better late than never. What it has ignored is the apparent consent of local people who formed the audience at the public display of police torture in Chiniot.

If the police account is to be believed, the people of the area were not satisfied with the law taking its course after the dacoits were caught. They wanted them to be humiliated and punished publicly. If this account is correct, the focus should have been on how intolerant we have become as a society. Attention ought to have been paid to the fact that there is a general acceptance of police torture within the confines of the thana. But the re-runs of the video put the police under the spotlight.

Analysts have pinpointed at the hypocrisy hitherto shown by the people, the lawyers, the judges and the media to the issue of torture by the police. Cynicism abounds regarding the system taking its routine course after the current wave of media attention subsides. But here is an opportunity to look at the various dimensions of the issue.

There is of course the obvious and important reference to the use of torture as an investigative technique in the absence of scientific resources and training in gathering material and verbal evidence torture is not just used to extract confessions. Apart from the training handicap, the force has internalised this practice over decades and centuries. The fact that the policemen who use these brutal methods are never punished has reinforced this culture. The police think there is nothing wrong in beating up people who are criminals after all.

The framers of the constitution, it seems, were aware of this mindset and injected safety mechanisms against police excesses in the forms of articles 4, 9 and 14. Pakistan Penal Code adequately provides for laws against such torture and so does the Police Order 2002, specifically in its Section 156 (d).

There are some structural flaws. A part of the Police Order 2002 that is only partially implemented, provides for a separation of investigations from watch and ward operations. The idea behind this separation was to make investigation a specialised field looked after by trained officers and provides for sophisticated methods of evidence gathering.

And then there are procedural flaws. Why is the police forced to resort to torture? Is it fair to see this as a problem that can be dealt with in isolation? The truth is that the courts ask for evidence, which the police more often than not does not have. There is no protection for witnesses and the entire system is dependent on tout witnesses. Thus, the police use torture for extracting evidence. The courts and the lawyers exactly know how the FIRs are made up and it is this systemic fault that perpetuates police torture.

What happened in Chiniot was not the first case of police torture. It may not be the last case if the systemic flaws that sanction and sustain this brutality are not addressed.  

 

overview

Trained to torture

With excessive torture the order of the day, police force remains a complete stranger to modern investigation techniques

By Aoun Sahi

"Investigators continued hitting the palm of my feet with a cane until I confessed to crimes I had never committed," says Irfan Haider, a 28-year old resident of Sialkot district. Irfan was arrested in 2007 as he was coming home from his shop. "I can't forget the five days I spent in the police station. The police wanted me to admit to committing a major theft in the area. When I refused, two policemen started torturing me. Barely 30 minutes had passed when I confess to having committed the crime," he says.

The government claims to have introduced major changes in the police investigation system as well as the thana culture over the last few years, but the reality is otherwise.

According to the Police Order 2002, the investigation procedure was separated from watch and ward operations to improve investigation methods of police officials. But this never fully materialised and torture is still the only means used by the police to investigate cases. The latest example is the footage of police flogging civilians in public in a bid to force them to accept their 'crime'.

"Punishments in public create fear of the police among the public, and believe me 80 percent of the crime is controlled in this way," says a deputy superintendent of Punjab police on condition of anonymity. He believes if the Station House Officer (SHO) of a certain area is rude and uses torture techniques, people in his area will avoid committing crimes. "The low-ranked police officials who are 'famous' for using third degree means are very popular among the high officials and many of them are deputed as investigation officers to control crimes and criminals."

According to the DSP, investigators face pressure to deliver, "Police have to face pressure from complainants, high-ups, and local influentials. Every investigator has hundreds of cases under his belt for interrogation at the same time."

Ironically, all this despite the fact that torture is strictly prohibited under the law -- in the Constitution as well as criminal justice system and Sharia laws. According to Article 14 of the Constitution, sub article (a), "No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidences."

Inspector General of Punjab Police, Tariq Saleem Dogar, believes the recent incident of public torture by police officials in Chiniot district is an isolated case, "We have a very strong mechanism of accountability in the department and the police officials responsible for torture will be taken to task," he claims.

The data of international and national human rights organisations shows that the reality is otherwise. Amnesty International says every year more than 100 people are killed in Pakistan due to police torture. The HRCP annual report 2007 says as many as 147 cases of torture in police custody and at least 65 cases of death in police custody were reported.

The most revealing data about police torture is released by Madadgaar Helpline. According to the report, over the past nine years, there have been 9,364 reported cases of police torture. Of the total, 231 cases were reported in 2000, 555 in 2001, 996 in 2002, 838 in 2003, 1,260 in 2004, 1,356 in 2005, 1,662 in 2006, 1723 in 2007 and 743 in the first six months of 2008. The provincial break-up of figure indicates that in 2008 only 4 cases were reported from Balochistan, 29 NWFP, 406 Punjab and 304 cases were reported from Sindh. Among the cities Lahore, with 117 cases of reported torture cases from police, was on top of the list.

Zia Awan, President, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA), the body that runs Madadgaar Helpline, tells TNS that the data provided by Madadgaar Helpline consists of only those cases that are reported in the media, "I personally think that 90 percent of such cases are not reported in the media due to different reasons. For lack of evidence, not even once has a police official accused of torture been punished by the court of law," he says adding, "Since it is inside the police station or private torture cells, victims cannot furnish witnesses."

The police claim to have a strict accountability system in place. However, the official data available to TNS regarding punishment awarded to police personnel for applying torture presents a different picture. According to the data, a total of 65 Punjab police officials (two inspectors, three sub-inspectors, 28 assistant sub-inspectors, 10 head constables and 22 constables) were given major and minor disciplinary punishment for the torture category in 2008. The data further reveals that 33 out of these punishments were just acts of 'censure'.

Chaudhry Muhammad Yaqoob, ex-IG Punjab, says that torture is more prevalent in Punjab and Sindh, "It's also because of the presence of feudal culture and local influentials. Police uses torture as a shortcut mostly in investigating crime against property. The purpose is to deliver a message to the criminal".

Yaqoob believes the solution lies in putting more resources and enhancing technical skills of police by improving its internal and external vigilance, "but even if you provide the best possible resources it will be wasted if there is no proper accountability mechanism," he concludes.

A high official at the office of Surgeon Medico Legal Punjab who has examined hundreds of cases of police torture during the last few years, says that physical torture is done mainly by young police officials in a bid to show their 'vigour'. "Senior police officials use psychological torture the main purpose of which is to extort money rather than facts". I have examined more than 100 police torture cases during the first two months of 2010."

Tariq Abbas Qureshi, District Police Officer Gujrat district, says that the police force is not trained to investigate cases without resorting to torture. "Most of the investigation officers are not capable of comprehending the medical-legal certificate. They are incapable, in most of cases, of understanding post-mortem reports. They do not have the capacity to use fingerprint matching, leave aside DNA test or other forensic methods. In Pakistan, it is the duty of police to recover stolen property from criminals. The court does not accept challan in many cases unless the stolen property or goods are recovered. This puts immense pressure on the police to recover stolen property within fourteen days (usual period of judicial remand). This is the reason why the police use torture and keeps the accused in custody without formally arresting them to complete the recoveries," he says.

 

 

Forensic failures

At present there are only five forensic labs in Pakistan while police officials think that we need at least 50 modern forensic labs with DNA-testing facility to ensure speedy and up-to-the-mark investigation.

"At present, it is very costly and time taking process to get DNA test or forensic help from the only laboratory in Lahore" he explains that we do not even have an automated system meant to check fingerprints. According to him in 2009 more than 10,000 cases were registered by police in Gujrat district "we got only Rs1.9 million as investigation budget for the same year which means less than Rs200 for one case".

A senior police official at Chuhng Police Training School, Lahore, whose job is to teach modern methods of investigations to under-training policemen tells TNS on condition of anonymity that high-ups of the department are not serious in adopting new techniques of investigation, "So far, I have trained hundreds of police officials in modern investigation techniques but, unfortunately, when they are posted at some police station, instead of modern techniques, chhittar (leather strip) becomes an integral part of their investigation. Many police stations do not have investigation rooms, so they hire private places for the purpose".

The official says an overwhelming majority of police officials in Punjab knows nothing forensic science and importance of a crime scene. "There are 37 districts in Punjab but so far we have only succeeded in selling 20 modern investigation kits. The price of these kits ranges from Rs15,000 to 22,000 and we have offered free training to investigation officials. So far, we haven't received even a single request from police". -- AS

 

Colonial legacy

The common torture methods employed by police can be traced to the ancient past

By Waqar Gillani

The common torture methods employed by police officials include standing for hours with arms stretched to the sides, hanging upside down, twisting the genitals, clubbing, not allowing them to use toilets for hours, cigarettes burns, whacking the soles of the feet, sexual assault, prolonged isolation, electric shock, denial of food or sleep, forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters and public humiliation. Even, picking up the family members of the accused persons is a form of torture.

Used in private torture cells and in police stations alike, these methods are generally of five types: physical, hygienic, deprivation, psychological and humiliation. Torture with a chittar (leather or rubber truncheons) and roller (rula), a wooden stick or bamboo, is most common. The roller is used on thighs and calves to damage veins, arteries and nerves. Beating with belts, bamboos, rifle butts, wooden sticks, iron rods, electric wires, whips, roots of trees, wet towels and thorny branches are some of the other methods of torture, insiders say. Kicking, pricking nails with needles, naked parade, confinement in dark room, and exposure to extreme cold are the other ways to torture an accused in police custody.

Torture has no legal sanction. However, police use it to extract confession. Sometimes, it also leads to deaths in custody or leaves a long-term physical or psychological effect on the accused person's health.

Researcher and former principal of Central Jail Staff Training Institute (CJSTI) Abdul Majeed Olakh, who has also authored a book on criminal justice system in Pakistan, firmly links the culture of torture to the colonial legacy.

"It started with the 1861 Police Act which was framed by the British after extensive research on the subcontinent culture," says Olakh, adding, "Those were the days when there were no police officers, only daroghas/thanedars (station house officers). Then torture was mainly used to punish political opponents."

Researches also reveal that the trend of having baton in hand to rule the society actually started with Chandragupta Maurya in 300 BC in this region. It is also linked to Ashoka the Great. The British adopted it, says Olakh.

In the early 19th century when Lord Macaulay (Thomas Babington Macaulay) was the then Viceroy of India, he started working on Police Act to rule the Indian society. For the purpose, a commission was set up in 1837 to study the culture and habits of the Indian society. On the basis of the recommendations of that commission given in 1858, the 1861 Police Act and the Indian Penal Code and CrPC (Criminal Procedural Code) were formed. As many as 512 rules were identified out of which 200 were types of crime, 200 were sentences and 112 further explanations about the crime and sentences. The Irish law was also modelled after these recommendations as Ireland was also under the British control and the people were struggling for freedom.

Olakh says that the Police Act a colonial legacy was first replaced with Police Order 2002 during Pervez Musharraf's regime.

"Like Ashoka, the British gave a stick to the police as a symbol to rule the society and control crime (including political crime). This stick, called baton, had a leather or rubber belt on its top that was used to torture while investigating the crime or dispersing the protestors. This system continued in Pakistan till the early 1980s and later the belt took the shape of chittar. This culture started taking new shapes after the 70s and evolved various forms of manual torture mainly in Punjab and Sindh," he says, adding, "In other areas, there is a trend of private confinements and torture cells."

He says Punjab is master of such innovations. He advocates the use of scientific means to investigate crime instead of torture. At least, there should be community level monitoring of police lock-ups to prevent torture.

 

Private and confidential

Some 150 private torture cells exist in Lahore to interrogate the accused by applying traditional methods of torture without fear

By Salman Aslam

Recently, a detainee of a private torture cell in Shera Kot, maintained by Sub-Inspector Akram of Gulshan-e-Ravi police station, killed one constable Asif and disposed of his body in an open drain in the Sandah area. A rare case indeed -- a detainee kills policeman deputed to keep a vigil on the cell inmates.

It is common knowledge that policemen run private torture cells in different cities. Such cells are established to interrogate suspects and criminals without bringing their arrests on record. The Operations, Investigations and CIA wings of the City police have set up more than 150 private torture cells in the jurisdiction of 77 police stations in the provincial metropolis to interrogate robbers, suspects and other gangsters by applying traditional methods of torture without any fear. These private torture cells also help police escape the raids of court bailiffs in cases of illegal custody.

When policemen feel they are unable to extract information from detainees during the stipulated period of physical remand -- ranging from one to fourteen days -- they shift them to private torture cells usually established in remote and derelict areas, so people do not notice illegal activities. The place either provided by the area influentials or is rented for the purpose. But such cells are usually set up within the limits of police stations.

However, to date no police officer has ever been punished for an act of torture though they have been suspended, transferred or even dismissed from service if the case against them is proven. The failure to criminalise torture in custody in law provides impunity to police. Hundreds of incidents of extra-judicial killings hit the newspapers' lines in the past years but not a single officer was awarded punishment.

In the private torture cells and even in the police stations policemen usually use five methods of torture -- physical, hygienic, deprivation, psychological and humiliation.

Torture in private cells forces an accused to confess to a crime he may have never committed and it leads to deaths in custody. Sensitive people who are subjected to torture or humiliation develop severe psychological problems even after they are released.

When asked, Capital City Police Officer Mohammad Pervez Rathore said the setting up of private torture cells by police is a heinous crime and law does not sanction running of such cells at private places.

He said that strict legal action is being taken against those police officials and officers involved in corruption, highhandedness and operating private torture cells.

"I have directed the divisional SPs of Operations and Investigation Wings to strictly monitor the performance of their respective subordinates and take immediate action against them if they are found involved in any illegal act," he added.

He said that people should come forward and play their due role by informing the officers about torture cells operating in their areas.

 

laws

Illegal matters

Young policemen are rarely informed about legal implications of soliciting evidence by means of torture

By Aiyan Bhutta

The latest report of police torture -- an all too common occurrence in police stations throughout Pakistan -- comes from Chiniot, where seven individuals were victims of extreme police brutality. The policemen in this case were said to be furious after being confronted by the relatives of the accused who alleged that these individuals were falsely implicated. As revenge, the law enforcement officials took the law into their own hands by publicly punishing and humiliating the accused men.

The policemen who committed acts of torture have since been suspended and jailed but that was only after a video of the incident was shown on the internet and broadcast in television news. These police officials should consider themselves unlucky to have been caught on video since such incidents happen in Pakistan everyday without ever being brought to the attention of the public.

Torture, whether it is physical or psychological, is a widely accepted practice adopted by the police forces. Article 14(2) of the Constitution of Pakistan makes it clear that "No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence". Additionally, the Police Order of 2002 prescribes a punishment of up to five years for a police official who inflicts torture or violence to any person in his custody.

However, it is a sad fact that while undergoing training, young policemen are rarely informed about the legal implications of soliciting evidence by means of torture. They are also not made aware of the penalties and repercussions of using torture to do their jobs. Today in Pakistan, the recovery of evidence in criminal cases is mostly based on 'confessions' obtained through torture, which is a clear violation of the law of the land. Police officials also regularly receive monetary incentives from the complainants of a case to use excessive force against the accused which further exasperates the situation.

As a result, inflicting torture on prisoners has gained acceptance and has become a part of police culture in our country. It is an open secret that the use of torture as a means of interrogation, intimidation, and humiliation is a practice both explicitly and implicitly approved by the police hierarchy while also being tolerated (if not outright encouraged) by the political leadership of the country. The legal community also ignores this practice as issues pertaining to prisoner abuse are rarely brought up in criminal trials, perhaps because it is taken for granted that such abuse is common and a normal part of the investigative process.

In addition to local laws prohibiting torture, Pakistan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) along with the United Nations Conventions against Torture (CAT) which it signed in 2008. In the CAT, torture is defined as physical or mental pain or suffering inflicted on an individual for the purpose of obtaining a confession or intimidation, punishment or coercion. Most importantly, it implicates public officials under whose consent or acquiescence such acts are carried out. Therefore, international law clearly holds senior police officers and political figures responsible if acts of torture are being carried out under their watchful eyes.

Other important provisions of CAT include prompt investigations of any allegations of torture, ensuring that victims of torture must have an enforceable right to compensation and banning the use of evidence produced by torture in the courts. Unfortunately, like many other international treaties that our successive governments have signed over the years, these provisions have not been incorporated in our local laws. This is in part because both the ICCPR and CAT have not been ratified by our legislature, which has been preoccupied with other issues of 'public importance' such as the NRO and judicial appointments. Our leaders have shown lack of political will to address issues pertaining to human rights, especially those in relation to the rights of prisoners, many of whom are languishing in jails on frivolous charges.

Apart from the fact that torture is explicitly outlawed by local and international law, it is important for our decision makers to realise that prohibition against torture is a peremptory norm which means that it is a fundamental principle of international law from which no derogation is ever permitted. Therefore, even without specific provisions relating to torture in our local laws, torture would still be a prohibited practice open to judicial scrutiny by local and international courts.

In these times of war, the torture situation in Pakistan seems to have exacerbated as myriad reports surface about terrorist suspects who have been victims of torture. Moreover, recent news reports have emerged regarding the Punjab Police operating 150 private torture cells in Lahore. If accurate, this is indeed a worrying development as this seriously questions the resolve of the government to protect its citizens from state sanctioned brutality.

War and a high crime rate should not be used as reasons to justify such extreme measures. Accountability of police officials -- including those at the top of the hierarchy -- needs to take place whenever incidents such as the one in Chiniot take place. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has recently taken suo motu notice of this occurrence. It will be interesting to observe if any judicial precedent in this area is set.

Our courts should develop a practice of awarding compensation to victims of state torture. Public pressure also needs to be mounted on the government for the ratification of the ICCPR and CAT. Torture should have no place in our society in the twenty first century.

The writer is a barrister practising criminal law in Lahore. He can be reached at [email protected]

 


In the routine

Training programmes should be reoriented to bring about a change in the attitude and mindset

Unfortunately, policemen are not trained in modern scientific investigation. Rules are flouted with impunity by the men in uniform for they are accountable to none. Moreover, there is no forum where the victims can seek redress and since there are no witnesses to contradict the police version in the event of a death in custody, the perpetrator often goes scot-free.

Police excesses and the maltreatment of detainees/under-trial prisoners/suspects in the name of investigation or interrogation not only tarnish the image of the police but also encourage the policemen to consider themselves above the law -- and sometimes even to become law unto themselves.

This reporter interviewed over 20 investigators, who declined to be named, but admitted they did not know about the scientific methods of investigation. They termed the short and refresher courses held at Qila Gujar Singh Police Lines a cosmetic solution to their problem.

They believed that if they followed the text mentioned in their syllabus, they would not be able get the culprit to confess. They said that according to the law whenever a person was arrested and detained it appeared that the investigation could not be completed within a period of 24 hours fixed under Section 61. While there were grounds for believing that the accusation or information was well-founded, the officer incharge of the police station or the investigation officer would forthwith transmit a copy of entries in the diary and the accused to a nearest magistrate.

Lower rank policemen, CIA investigators and some SHOs who were interviewed by the scribe admitted on condition of anonymity that torture is a routine method and essential during the course of investigation or interrogation. They insisted that they had to resort to torture an accused because their senior officers demanded miracles from them. If a robbery is committed, the SHO concerned is directed to arrest the suspect and make recovery at the earliest.

The use of brutal force and third-degree methods on under trials remains one of the major and at times sole weapon of the police. It is observed that the enforcers of law are among the major perpetrators of crime against humanity. Extreme torture or assault in custody in the name of investigation often results in fatal injuries and even death. Worse, several such deaths are not factually reported and are brazenly dismissed as suicides or encounter killings.

It is scandalous that there is no proper mechanism in place to check such brutality in the name of investigation. Yet, nothing has changed and the reasons are not far to seek why the menace still persists.

Custodial crimes infringe upon human rights and the confessions, thus extracted, often fail to stand the legal scrutiny. Violence at the hands of the police is counter-productive. It can turn innocent suspects into hardcore criminals. The grouse they have against any particular policeman motivates them to rebel against the country.

Disciplinary action is seldom taken against the guilty cops and the inquiry proceedings are often shelved. Transfers and suspensions are just routine measures to buy time. Cases are swept under the carpet before long as public memory is short and the media outcry short lived.

In a civilised police set-up, people are not killed in fake encounters or lock-ups and the enforcers of law do not use third-degree methods to make those under trial confess. A professional police force presupposes better methods to collect information and if the investigation is efficient and foolproof there would be more convictions and fewer acquittals. Training and recruitment are the other important areas that need to be addressed promptly. Training programme should be reoriented to bring about a change in the police attitude and mindset regarding investigation.

Dr Shahid Malik says that the torture victims, after being released from custody, suffer from physical and functional effects. Slapping can cause blindness and hanging upside down can result in renal failure of torture victims. They continue to suffer pain in the tortured areas of the body for the rest of their lives, they say. Most of the torture victims suffer from kidney problems due to blows in the lower abdomen or on buttocks and feet. Torture victims face problems like sleep disorders, social and family problems, emotional instability, aggressiveness, fear, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, guilt and anger, he maintains.

Responding to a query, Capital City Police Officer Mohammad Pervez Rathore says that the new police system was aimed at eliminating all types of malpractices in the police department. The present government has adopted strict action for those involved in torture or corruption, he claims.

He believes that some police officials with a typical mindset exercise torture during the course of investigation. "Such officers are being weeded out through an accountability process," he says and denies that senior police officers pressurise their juniors for quick results. The instructions the seniors issue are aimed at supporting complainants only, he says.

The CCPO says that there is no provision in the law to exercise torture and strict action is taken against policemen whenever an excess on their part is reported.

-- Salman Aslam

 

The entire police force is overworked

Dr Fasihuddin, Director General Human Rights Central Police Office and President Pakistan Society of Criminology

By Mushtaq Yusufzai

"Police torture is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan," admits Dr Fasihuddin, Director General Human Rights Central Police Office and President Pakistan Society of Criminology while talking to The News on Sunday.

"The difference between Pakistan and the civilised world is that we work on ad hoc basis, while they develop their institutions which function according to the parameters set by the constitution."

He laments the lack of interest on the part of rulers and politicians as well as the lack of check and balance on bureaucracy.

"Our dilemma is that we start working on emergency basis when something happens -- like the recent public lashing of alleged criminals by police in Punjab. However, this is nothing new. This inhuman practice has been going on in almost each and every police station of the country, but no one took notice before," says Ahmad.

Having spent most of his service period with police jawans, deprived of even basic facilities in various out-stations, Ahmad is well-aware of their weaknesses as well as the challenges the police face.

Previous governments introduced several police reforms, including the much-trumpeted Police Order 2002, however, Ahmad admits that senior police officials, as well as politicians, were the main hurdles in implementing these reforms in letter and spirit.

"The unfortunate fact is that our senior police officers and politicians would never like to lose their unchecked powers by implementing police reforms in true spirit. That's why these reforms could not help bring attitudinal improvement in the police force, which has become used to the colonial-era police system."

Ahmad adds the government announced Police Order 2002, but did not provide additional resources for implementation of long-awaited regulations in the police force, which was structured by the British government to suppress uprising by the people of the subcontinent.

"The entire police force is overworked and stressed out due to long duty hours, meagre salaries and insecurity," he stresses.

A recent survey conducted on the NWFP police force finds 55 percent of police personnel suffering from psychological disorders, while 45 percent were in the state of denial due to long duty hours, fatigue and insecurity.

Another major cause of police torture is the never-ending pressure from top bosses, judiciary and politicians for making early arrests of culprits, recovery of missing people, quick investigations, early challans and providing protection to VIPs.

"The most important thing is that our police force is not trained in modern techniques of interrogations. Then there are always time constraints and lack of manpower and resources. So instead of following modern scientific techniques, interrogation officers resort to third-level of investigations by torturing the accused.

"An inquiry officer is always short of time, due to court pressure, making him merely filling the blanks when an accused is given to him for interrogation."

Ahmad adds the result is desertion, absenteeism, growing trend of medical leaves and resignations in the force. "They are over-stressed as no one cares about their genuine problems and the reaction, of course, would appear in the form of misbehaviour, corruption and torture."

Ahmad admits there are a lot of drawbacks in the training of police, but he is optimistic the force could be made more efficient if some drastic changes are made in their selection process and training -- "Graduation should at least be the basic criteria for recruitment in the force, while instead of focusing on physical exercise and weapon use; emphasis should be laid on their performance at training schools."

Also, Ahmad adds, that if senior officers revived the forgotten practice of visiting and inspecting police stations in six months or on annual basis and listen to the problems of their juniors, it would bring a positive change.

 

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