Pakistan: Legislation sought against torture

by Our Correspondent in Karachi

(June 29, Karachi, Sri Lanka Guardian) The meeting was attended by three ministers, two from the federal government and one from the Sindh province. The ministers who attended the meeting were Mr. Raza Rabbani, the father of the historic 18th Amendment of the Constitution and Dr. Farooq Sattar, federal minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Mr. Muzzafar Husain Shujra, the Sindh provincial Minister on Prisons.

Mr. Raza Rabani speaking at the meeting said that the National Assembly and the Senate should hold a joint parliamentary committee and form a watchdog to monitor police agencies and other law enforcement agencies. He also said that a human rights literacy campaign should be started in educational institutions and factories to raise awareness among the people. He further added that efforts for legislation for a draft bill for legislation against torture in custody should be highly recommended. He said that the state of human rights, not only in Pakistan but also in the most powerful countries, is deteriorating. The United States has failed to implement the United Nations Convention on Human Rights in attacking Afghanistan and Iraq and by running torture cells and prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Similarly Israel has subjected Pakistanis to torture and the recent attack on the aid flotilla has again proved that they are violating human rights.

Mr. Rabani went on the say that the state of human rights in Pakistan is terrible and there is a dire need to change the mindset of the people. "I believe that passing a law relating to the state of human rights won't solve the problem. We need to change the attitude of the people towards basic human rights and fundamentals".

Speaking on this occasion the Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, Dr. Farooq Satar said that the evil of torture should be nipped in the bud. New ways of torture are now emerging on the surface; illegal detention, torture through public models and torture through extremism.

The president of the Karachi Union of Journalists, Mr. Khursheed Abbasi talked about the impunity that the law enforcement agencies are practicing and the torture of people when they are picked up for interrogation. He said that once someone was tortured it became very difficult for him or her to be rehabilitated into society. He gave the example of Nazir Abbasi, who was allegedly tortured to death by the armed forces. He lauded the fact that the nation had ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture.

Speaking on behalf of the Asian Human Rights Commission Hasan Ahtar spoke on the situation of the rule of law in the country and stressed the need for effective rule of law enforcement and also the need to tackle the problem of widespread torture in the country.

The retired justice Aslam Nasir Zahid said there was a need of a sort of revolution to change the behaviour of both the government and the police parties. He said that if the political party is of a compromising attitude more than half of the country's problems would be resolved.

At this meeting a resolution was signed by many persons calling for legislation to make torture a crime in Pakistan. Several countries of the region have already made legislation to do this, for example neighbouring Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India has declared that it will bring in legislation to make torture a crime urgently.

A bill is before the Bangladesh parliament to make torture to be recognised as a serious crime. The resolution calls for Pakistan to follow this example and bring about a law as quickly as possible.

All the speakers at this meeting stressed the need to continue this issue and bring about this legislation as early as possible.