Righting the wrongs: Activist highlights Asia’s dismal human rights record

Baseer Naveed criticises state for playing its part in torture.


Our Correspondent February 17, 2014
Security forces in Sri Lanka are responsible for over 60,000 disappearances. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: After terming torture an epidemic in South Asia, an activist highlighted the shortcomings of the region in terms of provision of basic human rights.

Speaking on the 'State of Human Rights in South Asia' at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), researcher and in-charge of the Pakistani desk at the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in Hong Kong, Baseer Naveed said that Pakistan has yet to make a law on torture and India hasn't ratified the UN convention on torture. He also revealed that Bangladesh ratified the convention in 1996 but has failed to prevent torture and that Sri Lanka, which accepted it in 1994, still possesses the highest number of torture cases.

"At least 1,300 people are tortured daily in police stations in Pakistan," he claimed. “Police stations have private torture cells and there is no designated place where one can go to file a complaint against them if you have been subjected to torture."

However, Naveed felt that the courts are also to be blamed for this as they remand accused suspects to police custody, which gives policemen a chance to subject them to torture. He also claimed that the state is involved in disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture but is not held responsible for them and seems to be answerable to nobody. "The concept of equality amongst all citizens finishes when someone is not charged for their actions."

Naveed said that while state-sponsored violence is the most visible in Balochistan, it exists in all provinces of the country. Talking about other countries, he said that forces in Sri Lanka were behind 60,000 disappearances, while in Bangladesh, the Border Security Forces were involved in kidnapping and the raping of women.

Caste-based violence in this region was also brought under discussion, as Naveed said that along with Pakistan, countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and India witness such discriminations regularly.

Naveed then touched upon freedom of expression in South Asian countries. "In India extremist groups such as the Bharatiya Janata Party deny this right to their people." He said that the media might seem free but even today, news channels cannot talk about people being forcefully converted to Islam or raise questions regarding religion.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2014.

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