Harrowing condition of missing detainees

Finally the seven missing detainees were produced before the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday after the apex court flexed its muscles. Eleven prisoners went missing in 2010 from Adiala Jail despite being freed by the courts. It was later revealed that they had been picked up by the intelligence agencies as they were accused of committing terrorist attacks against the military. Four prisoners died while in the custody of the intelligence agencies. Had the SC not been stringent, there was no way that the remaining seven prisoners would have been produced before the court. Four of them were brought from Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar and the other three from the internment centre in Parachinar. It was harrowing to see their condition — some carrying urine bags while all of them were hardly able to walk properly. One of them said that they did not have “proper food and (were) never offered a doctor while in custody” while another said that he has severe pain in his chest and his shoulders are itching. Human beings were treated worse than animals yet the ISI and MI’s counsel, Raja Muhammad Irshad, tried to justify their condition. “You can imagine, when somebody is in custody or jail, you cannot have the facilities you have at home,” Irshad told CNN.

Pakistan’s law-enforcing agencies, including the police, are notorious for torturing people in their custody. Our intelligence agencies are no different. Pakistan is a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which defines torture as “...any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” It seems that our security agencies have either not heard of the UN convention or do not have any regard for such covenants.

Pakistan’s military and its intelligence agencies have already been accused of extrajudicial killings and torture in FATA and Balochistan. Thousands of Baloch are missing and yet nobody seems to care about their whereabouts. Even the courts have not been as vigilant in this regard as they should have been. The families of the missing Baloch have been staging sit-ins in many cities of Pakistan but their pleas have not been heard. Their stories are gut-wrenching. The government and the courts must listen to their plight and pressurise the military to produce the missing Baloch as soon as possible. Every other day there is news of tortured, bullet-riddled bodies of the missing Baloch found in the province. No one has been held accountable despite the fact that it is now an open secret that the intelligence agencies are behind these abductions and killings. The way our military treats our own citizens is criminal. Nobody is above the law and it is time someone holds the military and its proxies responsible for their crimes.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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