The Institute for Peace and Secular Studies organized a Seminar on Police Torture in Pakistan where findings from a research report, to be published next month, were shared. The seminar was held at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Lahore and was presided over by Mr. Hussain Naqi. The participants included Mr. I.A. Rehman, Mr. Justice (Retd.) Muhammad Akram Qureshi, Additional Sessions Judges Mr. Khalid Mahmood Bhatti and Mr. Anjum Raza Syed, Mr. Sarmad Saeed, Additonal Inspector General of Police, RPO Sheikhupura, Mr. Zulfiqar Cheema, Mr. S.M. Masood, Former Law Minister along with several senior advocates, activists and law students.
Maryam Arif, J.D. presented findings from her research report on police torture. She said that while Pakistan is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, there is not enough awareness about the issue. Her study shows that there is no co-relation between the level of education and awareness about either UNCAT or reporting mechanisms of torture. This is true for both the police and the public.
Dr. Khurram Sohail Raja, who is working as a District Medico Legal Officer, Incharge of the COD, DHQ Hospital, Faisalabad, presented case studies with photographs and videos of actual victims of torture. He explained the various torture methods prevalent and how victims succumb to the injuries caused as a result or are permanently paralyzed or psychologically affected.
Mr. Shafiq Doger, General Secretary, Star Welfare Organization and a victim of torture himself shared his story with the participants. He said that he was kept in police custody for 18 days and was constantly tortured, suffering scars that he bears to this day. He shed light on the flaws of the criminal justice system where a victim has no recourse to justice.
Mr. Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Advocate General of Punjab, said that we need to sensitize the public about torture, that it was a “cultural thing that you have to unlearn.” He suggested the need to curtail police powers, raise awareness about the issue through media and include it in the syllabus for police officers.