For neuroscientists and those who care about human rights, there are two arguments against torturing someone for information: that it is wrong, and that it doesn’t even work.
Try telling that to certain elements in the Punjab police.
“When we torture those in our custody they scream and cry with pain, but unless they tell us what we are asking for, we don’t stop,” says a low-ranking police official in the Criminal Investigation Agency (CIA) of Punjab police in Lahore.
Given his involvement – and apparent relish – in torturing suspects, it is no surprise the official does not want to be identified. He says he has been in the force for 22 years, and has recently been transferred to the superintendent office, where he now does clerical work for the agency.
“I used to hit people using chittar (a coarse leathery torture instrument) on their bottoms,” he says while laughing, adding that criminals deserve to be treated with such contempt. What’s more, he believes the method works: “Without torture, no one speaks.”
The policeman is careful to point out that during such torture – which includes tying the person to a charpoy and hitting his feet, and hanging him upside down – no marks are left on the body of the victim.
When asked what happens if a suspect does not cooperate, the official casually says that other family members are picked up and tortured until the suspect talks.
All of this happens behind the closed doors of the CIA headquarters in Lahore, known as the Kotwali office. Other police sources and regular news reports confirm the existence of a torture cell in the building.
“Usually four to five people interrogate the accused, during which this torture happens, but it is only for particular crimes like robbery, murder and organised crime,” the CIA source says.
Intriguingly, terrorists are ‘cracked’ in other ways: “Since terrorists are brain-washed into believing they are right, the police need to tackle their case through mental torture techniques,” he adds.
While the CIA official openly admits to torture, investigation officers at other police stations go a step further in their justification, saying it happens all around the world.
“In the US they do water-boarding and put people in refrigerated cells without clothes. Our methods are less cruel,” says Zahid, an assistant sub-inspector from the investigation unit at the North Cantt police station in Lahore.
He speaks freely about his sections’ unpleasant methods, even listing the different techniques: “We sleep-deprive the person, over-feed him, make him sit on his knees for hours, and even hit him with a chittar.”
Like the CIA official, Zahid also speaks of the ‘no marks’ policy to conceal torture. “We are very careful,” he says, aware that the government recently set up teams to monitor police performance and complaints.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking police officer, who asked not to be named, says that torture has moved out of police stations and into private properties, as Station House Officers don’t want to get caught. “Most SHOs who are the favourites of seniors torture people in custody without fear, because they know the top bosses cannot say anything to these cops as they do all their dirty work,” the police official added.
Zaman Khan, spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Lahore, says that “the police have a violent-based mindset that has not changed. And it is not just the police but other agencies who have safe houses across Pakistan where torture goes on.” Khan adds his disappointment that parliamentarians have not taken up the issue, leaving the fight to civil society and the media.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2011.
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Prisoners and Criminals rights in Pakistan have miles to go.
@Ibrahim Seleighvakoevic: The humans who torture have their personal psychological reasons. It is their lust and passion to inflict pain on others, be it a policeman torturing an alleged culprit, a teacher or mullah flogging a child or a porter beating cruelly his overloaded hungry donkey!
The good questions of the night are, how many such sadistic humans dwell in Pakistan? And how many grownups have been flogged or beaten in their childhood?
No shame at all in their mentally deranged immoral, inhumane and criminal treatments, which sadly is a reflection not only of our law and order, but our society as a whole. But, hey, everyone else is doing it too!
Unfortunately the religious crusaders and anti-west hypocrites will be more concerned about Guantanamo than our own local Gitmos.
Our 'zulm' somehow is magically 'halal'...
Torture never works... a person will say anything just to stop the torture...
its in every country then why the terror hub to be different.
No surprise... same is being done by US as well.
Something v sensitive to be pointed out in times as we live in, where nobody cares about the person who apparently did the wrong... as the apparent right have forgotten that being bigger also means being better. This complete degeneration & demoralization of individual & institute is because we completely undermine the importance of that knowledge that has been penned down in the form of the last book - The Quraan. That's the one thing everyone needs consistently try to go by each day of their lives to make a bigger change - eventually - if He is Kind. InshAllah. We live in the era of jahaalat. That Muhammed (P.B.U.H) was sent to dispel. But sadly, we have forgotten the knowledge that was entrusted to us. Time to revert back!
Those are Rangers Forces in the photo btw...