The case of Waqar Ahmed, who died at the Holy Family Hospital in Islamabad on April 29, from critical wounds allegedly inflicted by the police, calls attention once again to the methods used by our law enforcers to extract confessions during the course of investigation of cases.
The 18-year-old milk seller was allegedly kidnapped by a policeman and his two accomplices after a dispute with his employer. He was taken to — allegedly — a private torture cell where he was detained for a week and then dumped on a roadside. At the hospital, Ahmed reportedly claimed that he had been brutally tortured by policemen and they had beaten him with iron rods, tied to a chain, hanged from the ceiling. He had his nails pulled out with pliers and chilli powder thrown in his eyes. All this was done allegedly to extract a confession for something he says he did not do.
While the case is still under investigation, it has all the hallmarks of a typical case of police brutality, in which the custodians of the law are in fact its worst perpetrators. It calls to mind numerous other incidents, in particular the video footage of policemen torturing suspects in the vicinity of the Bhawana police station which emerged in 2010. The five policemen involved in that incident were acquitted and clearly nothing has changed from that time. The Punjab police, in particular, have over the years become synonymous with viciousness; cases where prisoners have been tortured are rife and incidents of extrajudicial killings continue. It is only when the media catches wind of a particular case that the police feel it necessary to take action. In this case, two constables and the SHO have been suspended, but this may not be enough. Dismissing junior officers may serve as a warning to others but the rot in the police system runs deep.
The pressure on the lower officers to extract confessions comes from the higher echelons of power. Without the methods and tools to carry out investigations, the lower police perhaps feel that torture is the only instrument at their disposal. It has to be made clear that confessions extracted under torture are frequently false and the police need to be trained to collect evidence and conduct proper investigation. It is high time that the thana culture is overhauled.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.
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