Friday May 24, 2024

Cheera, other brutal methods continue to taint country’s image

Seminar calls for end to use of state-sanctioned torture

By Shahid Husain
June 27, 2015
Even in the modern world, the vile practice of torture exists across the world in many horrific forms, and sadly Pakistan ranks among the countries where it continues in a widespread and systematic manner.
Elaborating on different locally employed torture techniques, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker said on Friday that hundreds of activists of his party had been subjected to the “cheera” by the law enforcement agencies – a horrific method commonly used by police wherein a person’s legs are spread so wide that it renders him impotent.
MQM MPA Suleman Mujahid Baloch was speaking at a seminar titled “International Day in Support of Torture Victims” organised jointly by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the Asian Human Rights Commission the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at the Arts Council.
The event was moderated by former Sindh High Court judge Majida Rizvi.
The MPA said around 15,000 MQM activists had been killed in the custody of the law enforcement agencies in 1992. He added that since the law enforcement agencies launched an operation against criminals in September 201, 40 MQM activists had lost their lives in the same manner.
“Law enforcement personnel in civvies whisk away MQM activists and then their bodies are found in different parts of Karachi.”
Baloch noted that the MQM was the one that called for involving the army in the crackdown in Karachi but unfortunately it was now the one being targeted under it garb.
He said his party also opposed the extrajudicial killings and use of torture in Balochistan.
“After MQM activists are taken away by the law enforcement agencies, they are stripped, humiliated and administered electric shocks. PILER executive director Karamat Ali said countries had been practicing torture for a log time.
He added that in the 1970s when there was a massive upsurge in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the governments in these continents were overwhelmingly military regimes that acted as “musclemen”.
“We have to see whether States are functioning in accordance with the law or not.”
Ali said the concept of “national security” was unacceptable. “As the law enforcement agencies do not hold legitimacy in accordance with law they use torture as a weapon,” he added.
He said state functionaries did not have the right to strip citizens and lash them. He recalled that during the upsurge against the military government of Gen Ayub Khan, the State had hired “goons” to beat up student activists. “But even that mafia in those days had some moral values,” he added.
“In our country torture has been practiced by every government,” Ali said. He noted that torture to extract information was practiced in the entire South Asia and regretted that India had yet to ratify the UN convention against torture.
“We don’t listen to argument; only torture is being practiced in Pakistan,” he lamented.
HRCP’s Asad Iqbal Butt said the UN convention against torture stated that a government official could not extract information through torture. “We are finding bodies of citizens who ‘disappeared’ from Balochistan and Sindh,” he added.
“It is also unlawful to hand over a citizen to any other country.”
Butt said there should be medical check-up of the person who had been arrested before they were remanded and after that period expired.
AHRC leader Hasan Abbas said his organisation was established in 1988 and it worked especially on the cases of forced disappearances and karo-kari.
He added that the AHRC had been lobbying with senators and legislators for the implementation of international conventions in Pakistan. “We have been working to bring a halt to physical and mental torture.”