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September 5, 2019

Salahuddin’s story

Editorial

 
September 5, 2019

Salahuddin Ayubi, the young man who was tortured to death by the Rahim Yar Khan police, suffered a terrible fate. From an early age, he appears to have suffered a mental condition which left him a misfit in society. Ayubi was arrested in Rahim Yar Khan a short while after he had robbed an ATM in Faisalabad and then stuck his tongue out at the camera. The image went viral over the internet. The Rahim Yar Khan police are alleged to have subjected to the very worst kind of torture. The video footage that is now emerging makes it clear that the initial police story that he suffered mental ill health and passed away overnight due to sickness has proved to be a lie. The young man’s family had tattooed his address, mobile phone number and name on his wrist so that contact could be made in case of an emergency. The police chose to make no contact. He had also been arrested in the past but released afterwards on grounds of his mental condition.

We know torture is endemic in the country. But despite initial claims by the Punjab police that they would crack down on it by putting up CCTV cameras at all police stations, a game of deception appears to have been played. Salahuddin’s family has registered an FIR for murder against the police. Their act was in fact worse than murder. It involved brutality against a man too vulnerable to protect himself and in a mental condition which made it impossible for him to recognise his crime.

The culture of torture by the police – and it seems the Punjab Police has a special soft corner for it – has gone on for far too long. The pledge by the IG Punjab Police after several cases came to light recently, including that of Salahuddin, means nothing. The cases of those who have already suffered torture and died as a result need to be examined. Pakistan has no specific laws against torture in custody, although its constitution bars carrying it out. International human rights groups are already monitoring this most recent horrendous case. Who can imagine a death worse than this for a man unable to understand why he was tortured, beaten, subjected to electric shocks and humiliated by his captors? How do we ensure justice for those who stand without any privilege in a country where the whole justice system seems to be built on class-based oppression and neglect? We have seen many such stories but there is always the hope that, perhaps, Salahuddin’s story can become a catalyst for change.

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