A cleric who was arrested in 2006 for mercilessly chaining drug users together in a detoxification ‘centre’ has been arrested again for doing the same thing—this time to 115 people.
Maulana Ilyas Qadri, the owner of Idara Tark-e-Manshiyat Roohani Ilaj (Centre for Spiritual Treatment of Drug Addicts), was first arrested in 2006 for fettering to a single iron chain 112 drug users, including seven British nationals of Pakistani origin. Qadri was arrested along with six of his men on Wednesday, July 16. Police booked Qadri (under sections 342, 506, 511, 377 of the PPC) on the complaint of Shahid Waseem of Chakwal and Majid Mehmood, a British national, who accused the cleric and his men of maltreatment, physical, mental torture, and sexual abuse of some underage boys. Qadri got bail in 2007 and in 2008 he sued 19 people for defamation. He went to court against the district nazim, tehsil nazim, DPO, DSP and nine journalists. As no one from this group or the families pursued the cases, Qadri was acquitted by the Abbottabad bench of the Peshawar High Court and the cases dismissed. He went back to work a few months later.
And now, for a second time, he has done the same thing.
Qadri was arrested with five guards from his centre on charges of wrongful confinement, extortion through fear of death for people in custody, intimidation, cheating and impersonation. A criminal case was registered against Qadri, his guards Babar Khan, Raja Sajid, Khan Nawaz, Naqib Ullah and Ajmal Khan under sections 15 AA, 386, 387, 506, 342, 344, 419, 420 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The case came to light when a man who was admitted at the centre went to the district judge of Haripur and DPO Haripur with a complaint that the centre was guilty of human rights abuses, torture and mistreatment of patients.
Khalabat Township SHO Raja Mehboob told the media that the police went into action on the orders of the DPO. A team from three police stations, headed by ASP Mukhtiyar Khan, raided the centre and found 115 people between 13 to 45 years of age, fettered in several different large rooms. All the men were bound together with one chain. They remained chained round the clock, even while they slept, prayed, or went to the bathroom. The detainees were kept in an atmosphere detrimental to their health and civil liberties as entitled under the law, said the SHO.
The detainees complained of constant intimidation from Qadri’s men who subjected them to beatings without any reason. They told the police that Qadri collected money from their families in the name of a fee for detoxification but the facilities he promised were never provided to them during their stay. One patient identified as Lutufur Rehman confirmed that Qadri charged each patient Rs9,000 per month and Rs35,000 at the time of admission.
The police unchained and released all the men whose families were asked to take them home. The SHO confirmed that three detainees, Noorur Rehman, a resident of Peshawar, Lutufur Rehman of Sikandar Pur and Shaukat were sent to hospital for treatment. Their bodies bore torture marks. The detainees testified that Qadri’s men beat them over the last five years.
Meanwhile, Qadri told the media at court that he denied the charges and called this a vilification campaign against his centre that he said was a “blessing” for those whose loved ones have unfortunately became addicts. These families could not pay for detoxification at hospitals. He said that his centre was registered under the Societies Act of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and he has been treating heroin, hashish, opium and alcohol addicts through spiritual methods without using medicines since 1995.
He justified the chains by saying that it prevented the drug users from escaping to avoid treatment. According to Qadri, religious mantras and praying five times a day were the methods of treatment for addicts. He claimed that he has treated hundreds of patients during the last two decades. He could not, however, answer why or how he could chain patients if the Supreme Court of Pakistan had banned it for even jail inmates. Qadri has no training or education in treating addicts either psychologically or physically.
On Thursday, a judicial magistrate gave the police two days of physical remand for Qadri.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2014.