The media and civil society should together put pressure on the government to comply with international commitments, as well as Pakistani laws, against the use of torture by security agencies, said speakers at a seminar here on Monday.
The seminar on ‘Prevalence of torture in Pakistan, our international commitments and the role of media’ was held at a local hotel and organised by Rozan, an Islamabad-based NGO, and Oxfam.
IA Rehman, the secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, discussed incidents of torture he had witnessed in Pakistan under military regimes. He said the military and police tortured people in custody to extract intelligence and confessions.
He highlighted specific provisions in the law against torture, including Article of 14(ii) of the Constitution (“No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence.”) and Sections 339, 340 and 349 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
“Article 14 has been violated since its inception. It must be implemented in its true spirit,” he said. “If you don’t allow a person in prison to meet his lawyer, that is torture, too.”
Journalist Mujahid Barelvi spoke about how the media should report on torture and the threats faced by journalists. The print and electronic media, he said, was so preoccupied with commercial concerns that it had no time for covering torture stories, he said.
Shabana Arif, senior coordinator for Rozan, said that media should represent society and support civil society in highlighting the issue of torture. She also stressed the need for collaboration between media and civil society to push for adherence to laws against torture and the UN International Conventional Against Torture, to which Pakistan is a signatory.
Arif said respect for the law and due process was lacking among journalists. At a recent media workshop, she said, she asked whether the security forces should be allowed a shoot-on-sight policy in Lyari.
“Ninety per cent of the journalists supported shoot-on-sight in Lyari,” she said. “Our political parties are ready for dialogue with the Taliban, but not with people in Lyari. For them, they want a shoot-at-sight policy. This is strange.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2013.
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